Use This Tip to Avoid Critical Reasoning Traps on the GMAT

GMAT TrapsWhen you’ve been teaching test prep for a while you begin to be able to anticipate the types of questions that will give your students fits. The reason isn’t necessarily because these questions are unusually hard in a conventional sense, but because embedded within these problems is a form of misdirection that is nearly impossible to resist. It’s often worthwhile to dissect these problems in greater detail to reveal some deeper truths about how the test works.

Here is a problem I knew I’d be asked about often the moment I saw it:

W, X, Y, and Z represent distinct digits such that WX * YZ = 1995. What is the value of W?

  1. X is a prime number
  2. Z is not a prime number

The first instinct for most students I work with is, “I’m told nothing about W in either statement. There have to be many possibilities, so each statement alone is not sufficient.” When this thought occurs to you during the test, it’s important to resist it. By this, I don’t mean that you should simply assume that you’re wrong – there likely will be times when your first instincts are correct. Instead, what I mean is that you should take a bit more time to prove your assumptions to yourself. If there really are many workable scenarios, it won’t take much time to find them.

First, whenever there is an unusually large number and we’re dealing with multiplication, we want to take the prime factorization of that large number so that we can work with that figure’s basic building blocks and make it more manageable. In this case, the prime factorization of 1995 is 3 * 5 * 7 * 19. (First we see that five is a factor of 1995 because 1995 = 5*399. Next, we see that 3 is a factor of 399, because the digits of 399 sum to a multiple of 3. Now we have 5 * 3 * 133. Last, we know that 133 = 7 * 19, because if there are twenty 7’s in 140, there must be nineteen 7’s in 133.)

Now we can use these building blocks to form two-digit numbers that multiply to 1995. Here is a list of two-digit numbers we can assemble from those prime factors:

3 * 5 = 15

3 * 7 = 21

3 * 19 = 57

5 * 7 = 35

5 * 19 = 95

These are our candidates for WX and YZ. There aren’t many possibilities for multiplying two of these two-digit numbers and still getting a product of 1995. In fact, there are only two: 95*21 = 1995 and 35*57 = 1995. But we’re told that each digit must be unique, so 35*57 can’t work, as two of our variables would equal 5. This means that we know, before we even look at the statements, that our two two-digit numbers are 95 and 21 – we just need to know which is which.

It’s possible that WX = 95 and YZ = 21, or WX = 21 and YZ = 95. That’s it. What at first appeared to be a very open-ended question actually has very few workable solutions. Now that we’ve established our sample space of possibilities, let’s examine the statements:

Statement 1: If we know X is prime, we know that WX cannot be 21, as X would be 1 in this scenario and 1 is not a prime number. This means that WX has to be 95, and thus we know for a fact that W = 9. This statement alone is sufficient to answer the question.

Statement 2: If we know that Z is not prime, we know that YZ cannot be 95, as Z would be 5 in this scenario and 5 is, of course, prime. Thus, YZ is 21 and WX is 95, and again, we know for a fact that W is 9, so this statement alone is also sufficient.

The answer is D, either statement alone is sufficient to answer the question, a result very much at odds with most test-taker’s initial instincts.

Takeaway: the GMAT is engineered to wrong-foot test-takers, using our instincts against us.  Rather than simply assuming our instincts are wrong – they won’t always be – we want to be methodical about proving our intuitions one way or another by confirming them in some instances, refuting them in others. By being thorough and methodical, we reduce the odds that we’ll step into one of the traps the question-writer has set for us and increase the odds that we’ll answer the question correctly.

Plan on taking the GMAT soon? We have GMAT prep courses starting all the time. And be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+ and Twitter!

By David Goldstein, a Veritas Prep GMAT instructor based in Boston. You can find more articles by him, here.

SAT Tip of the Week: Hotline Bling Is an SAT Thing

SAT Tip of the Week (1)It’s Hip Hop Month in the “SAT Tip of the Week” space, where you’ll learn that that Drake is a university in Iowa (where The Motto is, of course, Veritas) as well as a rapper from Toronto, and that the Common app is a great way to prepare for your Future. So let’s start with Drake, because even if your SAT score started at the bottom, now you’re here. If you’re reading this…it’s NOT too late.

It’s been hard to go anywhere over the last year without hearing Drake’s recent hit “Hotline Bling” (which was not only a monster #1 hit but also a Super Bowl commercial), so there’s a fair chance that as you drive to go take the SAT you’ll get Hotline Bling stuck in your head. And that’s exactly what you want.


Because, as the song goes, when you hear that Hotline Bling, that can only mean one thing. And there are several “Hotline Blings” on the SAT; recognizing them can save you plenty of time and dramatically raise your accuracy.

Hotline Bling: SAT Math
Positive vs. Negative
For example, on the Math sections, you might see a statement like x > 0 or y < 0. Hotline bling! Greater than zero or less than zero as definitions in an SAT Math problem can only mean one thing: you’d better check the sign of your answer (positive vs. negative) because greater than 0 means positive and less than 0 means negative, and putting those definitions in problems is a huge signal that positive/negative matters.

The expression is equivalent to…
Whenever you see the words “expression” and “equivalent” in an SAT Math problem – usually “The expression (given expression) is equivalent to which of the following?” or “Which of the following is equivalent to the expression shown above?” – that’s a Hotline Bling. That can only mean one thing: you’re going to have to use the answer choices.

Either you’ll try to make the given expression look more like the answer choices (for example, if the answer choices don’t have parentheses or a denominator, you’ll need to work on the given expression to get rid of the parentheses and denominator) or you’ll be able to pick your own numbers. Consider the following example, which appears courtesy the Official SAT Study Guide:

The expression (5x-2)/(x+3) is equivalent to which of the following?
A) (5-2)/3
B) 5 – (2/3)
C) 5 – (x)/(x+3)
D) 5 – (17)/(x+3)

Notice that you HAVE TO use the answer choices here. Without them, you don’t know what to start doing with the given expression. And even with them, it may seem difficult to get a 5 all alone away from the fraction (like answer choices B, C, and D).

That can only mean one thing: this is a great problem on which to try picking your own numbers. If you were to say, for example, that x = -2 (making your math easy by setting the whole denominator of the original equation equal to 1), you’d know that you have [5(-2) – 2]/(-2+3). That means that you have -12 as the value of the given expression when x = -2, so now you can test the answer choices. Clearly A and B do not work, so then check C and D. C then equals 4 while D = -12, so only choice D spits out the right answer when numbers are involved.

Hotline Bling to the rescue – the words “equivalent” and “expression” can only mean one thing…you’d better get the answer choices involved, and there’s a high likelihood that this is a pick your own numbers problem.

Hotline Bling: SAT Writing
Singular vs. Plural
Whenever the answer choices for a Writing problem include the singular and plural form of the same pronoun or verb (“it” vs. “they”; “is” vs. “are”) that can only mean one thing: you need to find the subject and match it up singular or plural.

Whenever the answer choices include multiple words that sound the same (they’re / their / there; it’s / its; you’re / your / yore), that can only mean one thing: the test is checking whether you know which version of the word means what. The apostrophe in those words is for a contraction (they are / it is / you are), so if you’re not trying to form a contraction, eliminate it. These problems should be quick, free points.

Whenever a question asks whether the author should add or delete a sentence, that can only mean one thing: it’s not a matter of personal preference, but a matter of understanding what the author is trying to accomplish. In these cases, you must read the context of that paragraph and determine what the author’s purpose is, then gauge whether adding or deleting anything would be true to that purpose. These questions aren’t about style at all – they’re about the author’s intent, so you have to read a wider scope of information to make sure you know what that purpose is.

Hotline Bling: SAT Reading
Whenever a question begins with, “As used in line…” (e.g. “As used in line 68, ‘hold’ most nearly means…”) that can only mean one thing: you have to understand the meaning of the sentence that the line number points you to, and not just rely on your knowledge of the word itself. These questions always include multiple answer choices that could mean the same thing as that word itself, but only one that you’d actually use in that sentence. So when you see those questions, don’t try to answer them on answer choices alone; instead, think about what word you’d use in that sentence and find a word that closely matches yours.

Ultimately, Hotline Bling on the SAT is all about recognizing knee-jerk reactions: if “___” appears, that can only mean one thing, so you know exactly what to do next. The list above isn’t a list of all SAT Hotline Blings, but a good start. As you study for the SAT, pay attention to all those Hotline Blings that tell you the one thing you should do next, and soon enough, you’ll be thinking, “Ever since I left the city you…” as you think about your high school friends and foes from far away in a dorm room at your dream school.

Still need to take the SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Brian Galvin.

Are There Set Rules for Answering GMAT Sentence Correction Questions?

SAT WorryThe other day I was working with a tutoring student on Sentence Correction when she expressed some understandable frustration: when we did Quantitative questions together, she said, she felt like she could rely on ironclad rules that never varied (the rules for exponents don’t change depending on the context of the problem, for example), but when we did Sentence Correction, the relevant rules at play in a given question seemed less obvious.

Was there a way, she wondered, to view Sentence Correction with the same unwavering consistency with which we view Quantitative questions? While I understand her frustration, the answer is, alas, an unqualified “no.” English is far too complex for us to boil down Sentence Correction to a series of stimulus-response reflexes. Context and logic always matter.

To see why we can’t go on autopilot during Sentence Correction questions, consider the following problem:

Not only did the systematic clearing of forests in the United States create farmland (especially in the Northeast) and gave consumers relatively inexpensive houses and furniture, but it also caused erosion and very quickly deforested whole regions. 

A) Not only did the systematic clearing of forests in the United States create farmland (especially in the Northeast) and gave consumers relatively inexpensive houses and furniture, but it also

B) Not only did the systematic clearing of forests in the United States create farmland (especially in the Northeast), which gave consumers relatively inexpensive houses and furniture, but also

C) The systematic clearing of forests in the United States, creating farmland (especially in the Northeast) and giving consumers relatively inexpensive houses and furniture, but also

D) The systematic clearing of forests in the United States created farmland (especially in the Northeast) and gave consumers relatively inexpensive houses and furniture, but it also

E) The systematic clearing of forests in the United States not only created farmland (especially in the Northeast), giving consumers relatively inexpensive houses and furniture, but it

If you fully absorbed the class discussion about the importance of parallel construction, you probably noticed an indelible parallel marker here: “not only.” Okay, you think. Any time I see not only x, I know but also y should show up later in the sentence.

This isn’t wrong, per se, but the construction “not only/but also” is only applicable in certain circumstances. So before we jump to the erroneous conclusion that this is the construction that is called for in this sentence, let’s examine its underlying logic in more detail.

Take the simple example, “On the way to work, I not only got stuck in traffic, but also….” Think about your expectations for what should come next in this sentence – getting stuck in traffic was the first unfortunate thing to happen to this hapless subject, and we’re expecting a second unfortunate event in the latter part of the sentence. Not only/but also is appropriate when we’re talking about similar things.

Now consider the construction. “On the way to work, I got stuck in traffic, but…” Now our expectations are markedly different – the second half of the sentence is going to contrast with the first. We’re expecting something different.

Let’s go back to our GMAT sentence. We’re comparing the consequences of the clearing of forests. First, the clearing “created farmland and gave consumers inexpensive houses” (good things). However, it also “caused erosion and deforested the region” (bad things). Because we’re comparing two very different consequences, the construction “not only/but also” – which is used to compare similar things – is inappropriate. Now we can safely eliminate answers A, B and E.

That leaves us with C and D. First, let’s examine C. Notice there’s a participial modifier in the middle of the sentence set off by commas, and a sentence should still be logical if we remove these modifiers. We would then be left with, “The systematic clearing of forests in the United States, but also caused erosion and very quickly deforested whole regions.” This clearly doesn’t work – the initial subject (the systematic clearing) has no verb, so C is wrong. This leaves us with answer choice D, which is the correct answer.

Takeaway: though noticing common constructions on Sentence Correction problems can be helpful, we can never go on autopilot. Ultimately, context, logic, and meaning will always come into play. Before you select any answer, always ask yourself if the sentence is logically coherent before you select it. If you want to ace the GMAT, turning off your brain is not an option.

*GMATPrep question courtesy of the Graduate Management Admissions Council.

Plan on taking the GMAT soon? We have GMAT prep courses starting all the time. And be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+ and Twitter!

By David Goldstein, a Veritas Prep GMAT instructor based in Boston. You can read more articles by him here.

Improve Your Speed on the ACT Math Section Using Math Fluidity

stopwatch-620Speed is key on the Math Section of the ACT – you have only 60 minutes to complete 60 questions. However, this doesn’t mean you should spend one minute on each question, as not every question on in this section is created equal. Many questions (particularly Questions 1-30) are problems that you can solve in under one minute. In fact, you should aim to solve Questions 1-30 in less than 30 minutes – around 25 minutes is the goal.

That’s because some of the later questions, particularly the questions from Questions 40-60, will require more than a minute. Basically, you want to put aside extra time for the tricky questions at end of the section by completing the easier, earlier questions as quickly as possible. If you do Questions 1-30 in 25 minutes, then you have 35 minutes to do Questions 31-60.

One way to improve your speed on the Math Section is to develop what I call “math fluidity.” That means recognizing how common patterns, formulas and special rules can help you solve any particular problem. To illustrate, take a look at the following triangle problem:

Triangle ABC (below) is an equilateral triangle with side of length 4. What is the area of triangle ABC?

ACT Triangle 1




The first step to any geometry problem is writing down what relevant common formula you’ll need to solve the problem; i.e. whenever I’m asked the area of a triangle, at the top of my work space I’ll write:

A = (b*h)/2

Having the formula in front of you will be helpful because right away, it’s clear that although we have some information, we don’t have all the information we need to solve this problem – we have the base of the triangle (4), but not the height. Since the height of an equilateral triangle always goes from one angle to the opposite side, where it forms two 90-degree angles, drawing the height of an equilateral triangle creates two identical triangles, as shown below:

ACT Triangle 2




Many students would now conclude that they need the Pythagorean theorem to solve for the height (that line bisecting the equilateral triangle). This is where math fluidity comes in. Although you could use the Pythagorean theorem, it’s much faster to instead recognize what type of triangle you are dealing with.

Whenever you split an equilateral triangle in half, you create two 30-60-90 triangles. These are also called “special right triangles” because they always follow the rule that the shortest side is always “x,” the side opposite the 60-degree angle is always x√3, and the hypotenuse is always 2x. See the triangle below:

ACT Triangle 3




So, rather than spend any time solving for the height of the our triangle by using the Pythagorean Theorem, recognize that because the hypotenuse is 4 and the base is 2 (of either of the smaller triangles), and because the triangle is a right triangle, the height must be 2√3. Therefore, the area of the larger triangle is  (2√3)(4)(1/2), which equals 4√3.

Instantly recognizing that the two smaller triangles are 30-60-90 triangles only saves a little bit of time – if you can regularly shave off 20 seconds on question after question by recognizing special rules or how best to apply formulas, you’ll accrue saved time that can later be spent on harder math questions. Speaking of which, math fluidity also applies to tricky questions – similar to what we previously saw, recognition will break down hard questions into easier, faster steps.

So, let’s take a look at a more difficult question. Note, this next example is especially relevant for students shooting for 99th percentile or perfect scores. Although many students can solve the following question if given enough time, few students can solve it quickly enough to get it correct on the ACT. Here’s the problem:

In triangle ABC below, angle BAE measures 30 degrees. What is the value of angle AED minus angle ABE?

A) 30ACT Triangle 4
B) 60
C) 90
D) 120
E) 150


Although there are several ways to solve this problem, math fluidity will help with whatever approach you choose. As I mentioned earlier, it is always best to start by writing down a relevant formula, as it will include what information you have and what information you need. In this case, I’m looking for AED-ABE. Because I’ve also been given the measure of angle BAE, I’ll write down:

BAE = 30 and BAE + ABE = AED

Here’s where math fluidity comes in; the second formula is based off a theorem that you probably learned (and then forgot!) in your geometry class. I do recommend (re)memorizing it for the ACT as follows: a measure of an exterior angle of a triangle is equal to the sum of the measures of the two non-adjacent interior angles.

ACT Triangle 5Are you drawing a blank? If so, take a moment to think about why that statement is true. If the smaller two angles of a right-angle triangle, as shown at left, are 40 and 50, then if we extend a line as shown to form the adjacent exterior angle x, then x + 50 = 180, so x = 130.


Also, 40 + 50 + 90 = 180, since the sum of interior angles of a triangle always add up to 180. So, if x + 50 = 180, and  40 + 50 + 90 = 180, then x+ 50 = 40 + 50 + 90.

Removing the 50 from both sides, we can conclude that x = 40 + 90, or x (the adjacent  exterior angle of one interior angle) is equal to the sum of the other two interior angles.

Now, returning to our original problem:

If BAE = 30 and BAE + ABE = AED, then:

30 + ABE = AED

AED – ABE = 30

Therefore, our answer is A, 30.

Still need to take the ACT? We run a free online ACT prep seminar every few weeks. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Rita Pearson

3 Things to Avoid During Your MBA Admissions Interview

MBA AdmissionsWould people like working with you? Can you communicate like an organization’s leader? When you interview for that coveted slot in your dream MBA program, these are some of the many areas you will be evaluated on. Chances are, at this stage you already know that you need to exemplify your ability to be on time, personable, and familiar with the details of your application.

Effectively communicating your personal highlights and your fit with the school will help you stand out favorably from the pool of other well-qualified applicants, but as you focus on presenting how exceptional you are, it can also be easy to fall for one of the popular pitfalls of the business school interview. Being cognizant of the details below will help you present yourself to your interviewer as a potential future leader who would be perfect for their school:

1) Steer Clear From an “Us vs. Them” Mentality
In day-to-day conversations with your coworkers, it can be easy to get used to generalizing negatively about other units in the organization. For example, referring to upper management as “out of touch” may feel true to you and your division. However, during your MBA interviews, you need to be more politically correct and sensitive – the way a CEO with the goal of uniting and inspiring the whole organization would carefully choose his or her words and delivery.

During practice interviews, applicants often fall into this trap when they explain examples of failures or challenging situations, as the language and tone used can give off the impression of a deeply-fostered “solo” mentality. Practicing with a sensitive listener will help call this out, allowing you to avoid this very common pitfall.

2) Hold Off On Generalizations
Related to the above, you must avoid tagging groups of people with a generalized label, whether it is by job functions, race, gender or nationality. While it may be funny for Dilbert to declare, “Marketing is only legal because it doesn’t work most of the time,” this sort of language should obviously be a no-no for you.

Likewise, highlighting an accomplishment educating the “backwards” people in one of your international offices by teaching them the “American Way” does not help in showing open-mindedness, and may actually concern your interviewer on your readiness to work with classmates from all over the world, or your potential to be a future global leader.

How then do you relate an accomplishment leading low-skilled blue-collar workers to align processes at the factory level with new technologies? You can still communicate the scale and context of this challenge without offending sensibilities – imagine describing one of them like you would describe a favorite uncle, doing so in an objective manner that would show both your appreciation and fondness at the same time.

3) End on a Positive Note
At the end of the interview, you are given the opportunity to ask questions. This is a great time to personally connect with your interviewer. Avoid showing doubts about your intention to push through with accepting an eventual offer to join the program (no matter how reasonable it is), or asking administrative details – these can always be addressed outside of the interview with better research and by connecting with the admissions office. Instead, engage the interviewer to talk about his fond memories with the school, evoking positive feelings that he would also have a good chance of associating with your particular interview.

By avoiding these three pitfalls, you’ll be sure to leave a great impression with your interviewer and bring yourself one step closer to gaining acceptance at your dream school.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Written by Edison Cu, a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for INSEAD.

Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: Using a Venn Diagram vs. a Double Set Matrix on the GMAT

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomCritics may have given a rotten rating to the recently released “Batman v. Superman” movie, but we sure can use it to learn a valuable GMAT lesson. A difficult decision point for GMAT test takers is picking the probable winner between Venn diagrams and Double Set Matrices for complicated sets questions. If that is true for you too, then the onscreen rivalry between Batman and Superman will help you remember this trick:

Venn diagrams are like Superman – all powerful. They can help you solve almost all questions involving either 2 or 3 overlapping sets. But then, there are some situations in which double set matrix method (aka Batman with his amazing weaponry) might be easier to use. It is possible to solve these questions using Venn diagrams, too, but it is more convenient to solve them using a Double Set Matrix.

We have discussed solving three overlapping sets using Venn diagrams here.

Today, we will look at the case in which using a Double Set Matrix is easier than using a Venn diagram – in instances where we have two sets of variables, such as English/Math and Middle School/High School, or Cake/Ice cream and Boys/Girls, etc.

Eventually, we will solve our question again using a Venn diagram, for those who like to use a single method for all similar questions. First, take a look at our question:

A business school event invites all of its graduate and undergraduate students to attend. Of the students who attend, male graduate students outnumber male undergraduates by a ratio of 7 to 2, and females constitute 70% of the group. If undergraduate students make up 1/6 of the group, which of the following CANNOT represent the number of female graduate students at the event?

(A) 18
(B) 27
(C) 36
(D) 72
(E) 180

To solve this problem using a Double Set Matrix, first jot down one set of variables as the row headings and the other as the column headings, as well as a row and column for “totals.” Now all you need to do is add in the information line by line as you read through the question.

“…male graduate students outnumber male undergraduates by a ratio of 7 to 2…
QWQW graph 1



“…females constitute 70% of the group.

Female students make up 70% of the group, which implies that male students (total of 9x) make up 30% of the group.

9x = (30/100)*Total Students

Total Students = 30x

Since 9x is the total number of male students while 30x is the total number of all students, the total number of female students must be 30x – 9x = 21x.

QWQW graph 2



If undergraduate students make up 1/6 of the group…

Undergrad students make 1/6 of the group, i.e. (1/6)*30x = 5x

If the total number of undergrad students is 5x and the number of male undergrad students is 2x, the number of female undergrad students must be 5x – 2x = 3x.

This implies that the number of graduate females must be 18x, since the total number of females is 21x.

QWQW graph 3



Therefore, the number of graduate females must be a multiple of 18. 27 is the only answer choice that is not a multiple of 18, so it cannot be the number of graduate females – therefore, our answer must be B.

Now, here is how Superman can rescue us in this question. An analysis similar to the one above will give us a Venn diagram which looks like this:

qwqw pic







Of course, we will get the same answer: the number of graduate females must be a multiple of 18. We know 27 is not a multiple of 18, so it cannot be the number of graduate females and therefore, our answer is still B.

Hopefully, next time you come across an overlapping sets question, you will know exactly who your superhero is!

Getting ready to take the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+, and Twitter!

Karishma, a Computer Engineer with a keen interest in alternative Mathematical approaches, has mentored students in the continents of Asia, Europe and North America. She teaches the GMAT for Veritas Prep and regularly participates in content development projects such as this blog!

How to Successfully Use Your College Weekends

roomateWeekends in college – stereotypically the time for football games, Frisbee on the green, and massive parties – are not always so glamorous. While it is true that these things do happen with regularity on the weekends, they don’t tell the whole story. In fact, with how much work college students have, a significant part of many students’ weekends is often spent in the library.

This presents itself as a bit of a dilemma – you want to go do fun things with your friends, but you also don’t want to be behind on schoolwork for the upcoming week. There is both a pressure to do work and a pressure to be social. Luckily, balancing college life is not too hard, and learning to do so can reap great benefits. All you have to keep in mind are the concepts of moderation and planning, and your weekends will end up being both productive and fun.

So what do I mean by moderation? Moderation is two-fold. One part is doing things in small chunks, rather than reserving huge blocks of time for doing just one thing. Breaking up your work into manageable chunks to do on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday is a good step towards making sure you don’t get overwhelmed. Doing this reminds you that the amount of work you have is rarely as bad as you think it is, especially when you consider that all 24 hours of the weekend are available for productivity since there obviously aren’t any classes.

Lots of people have fun on Friday and Saturday and leave all their work for Sunday, but this can result in a difficult end to your weekend, where your marginal productivity greatly decreases as the day goes on. The best path forward is to split up your time and try to ensure that you do things in manageable bursts, not long grind sessions.

The other aspect of moderation is thinking about the weekend as a time where you can both have some fun and do some work, instead of thinking of it in the extreme as only one or the other.  Many college students either say that they’re going to have the most crazy party weekend ever or they will have to be holed up in their rooms all weekend to study for their 3 midterms the following week.

In reality, most weekends can fall somewhere in between. All it takes is shift in mindset to one that thinks in moderate and not extreme terms. If I say that I’m going to have a pretty good weekend because the last week of work was challenging, that still leaves open the possibility that I’ll be able to do a little bit of work this weekend without feeling like I’m sacrificing all my fun. Self-talk is important in how we shape our perceptions, and the same is true with thinking about how we should spend our weekends.

Planning, the other important concept in balancing one’s weekend, is exactly what it sounds like, and while some students enjoy the weekend because it is less structured than their school week, planning out your time is actually quite useful. If you make a plan that includes all you have to do and all you want to do, you’ll be able to physically see that you can balance having fun and doing work. When you have a general idea of what you are doing and when you will be doing it, you are more likely to actually get yourself to do it.

It’s true that random plans with friends always come up on the weekend, but when you have a plan of how you want to spend your time you will be able to make a smart choice as to whether it would be responsible of you to follow through with this spontaneous plan (often times it is). I definitely believe that having fun during the weekend (and the week) is important, but I also mean to convey that having a plan, albeit a flexible one, puts you in a position to succeed.

Weekends are great respite from the daily grind of the school week. In order to make the weekend fun and keep up with work, it’s important to learn how to wisely balance work and play.

Do you still need help with your college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and register to attend one of our FREE Online College WorkshopsAnd as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

By Aidan Calvelli.

GMAT Tip of the Week: Don’t Be the April Fool with Trap Answers!

GMAT Tip of the WeekToday, people across the world are viewing news stories and emails with a skeptical eye, on guard to ensure that they don’t get April fooled. Your company just released a press release about a new initiative that would dramatically change your workload? Don’t react just yet…it could be an April Fool’s joke.

But in case your goal is to leave that job for the greener pastures of business school, anyway, keep that April Fool’s Day spirit with you throughout your GMAT preparation. Read skeptically and beware of the way too tempting, way too easy answer.

First let’s talk about how the GMAT “fools” you. At Veritas Prep we’ve spent years teaching people to “Think Like the Testmaker,” and the only pushback we’ve ever gotten while talking with the testmakers themselves has been, “Hey! We’re not deliberately trying to fool people.”

So what are they trying to do? They’re trying to reward critical thinkers, and by doing so, there need to be traps there for those not thinking as critically. And that’s an important way to look at trap answers – the trap isn’t set in a “gotcha” fashion to be cruel, but rather to reward the test-taker who sees the too-good-to-be-true answer as an invitation to dig a little deeper and think a little more critically. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and one examinee’s trap answer is another examinee’s opportunity to showcase the reasoning skills that business schools crave.

With that in mind, consider an example, and try not to get April fooled:

What is the greatest prime factor of 12!11! + 11!10! ?

(A) 2
(B) 7
(C) 11
(D) 19
(E) 23

If you’re like many – more than half of respondents in the Veritas Prep Question Bank – you went straight for the April Fool’s answer. And what’s even more worrisome is that most of those test-takers who choose trap answer C don’t spend very long on this problem. They see that 11 appears in both additive terms, see it in the answer choice, and pick it quickly. But that’s exactly how the GMAT fools you – the trap answers are there for those who don’t dig deeper and think critically. If 11 were such an obvious answer, why are 19 and 23 (numbers greater than any value listed in the expanded versions of those factorials 12*11*10*9…) even choices? Who are they fooling with those?

If you get an answer quickly it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re wrong, but it should at least raise the question, “Am I going for the fool’s answer here?”. And that should encourage you to put some work in. Here, the operative verb even appears in the question stem – you have to factor the addition into multiplication, since factors are all about multiplication/division and not addition/subtraction. When you factor out the common 11!:

11!(12! + 10!)

Then factor out the common 10! (12! is 12*11*10*9*8… so it can be expressed as 12*11*10!):

11!10!(12*11 + 1)

You end up with 11!*10!(133). And that’s where you can check 19 and 23 and see if they’re factors of that giant multiplication problem. And since 133 = 19*7, 19 is the largest prime factor and D is, in fact, the correct answer.

So what’s the lesson? When an answer comes a little too quickly to you or seems a little too obvious, take some time to make sure you’re not going for the trap answer.

Consider this – there are only four real reasons that you’ll see an easy problem in the middle of the GMAT:

1) It’s easy. The test is adaptive and you’re not doing very well so they’re lobbing you softballs. But don’t fear! This is only one of four reasons so it’s probably not this!

2) Statistically it’s fairly difficult, but it’s just easy to you because it’s something you studied well for, or for which you had a great junior high teacher. You’re just that good.

3) It’s not easy – you’re just falling for the trap answer.

4) It’s easy but it’s experimental. The GMAT has several problems in each section called “pretest items” that do not count towards your final score. These appear for research purposes (they’re checking to ensure that it’s a valid, bias-free problem and to gauge its difficulty), and they appear at random, so even a 780 scorer will likely see a handful of below-average difficulty problems.

Look back at that list and consider which are the most important. If it’s #1, you’re in trouble and probably cancelling your score or retaking the test anyway. And for #4 it doesn’t matter – that item doesn’t count. So really, the distinction that ultimately matters for your business school future is whether a problem like the example above fits #2 or #3.

If you find an answer a lot more quickly than you think you should, use some of that extra time to make sure you haven’t fallen for the trap. Engage those critical thinking skills that the GMAT is, after all, testing, and make sure that you’re not being duped while your competition is being rewarded. Avoid being the April Fool, and in a not-too-distant September you’ll be starting classes at a great school.

Getting ready to take the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTubeGoogle+ and Twitter!

By Brian Galvin.

How to Maximize Your MBA Application Essay in 2 Simple Steps

writing essaySo much to share and so little space to use – this is often the case for MBA application essays. Transforming all the unique details of who you are as a candidate into a flowing personal and reflective essay is essential to stand out as an authentic and engaging personality to the Admissions Committee. A great business school essay will be able to present a multi-dimensional candidate without coming off like an unrelated checklist of highlights.

With the limited space you’re given to write these application essays, it can be quite a challenge to fit in all of the key character traits, substantiated and vivid career highlights, fit with the target MBA program, achievable career goals, and passions outside work that you want to demonstrate to the Admissions Committee. How can you ensure that you maximize the word limits you are given while still creating something that flows naturally and is easy to read? Follow these two guidelines:

1) Do not repeat details
The most common way applicants tend to break down the task of working on multiple essays is to complete them one at a time – after finishing one essay, they review it and then start off on another one. The problem with this writing process is that details from one essay often end up being repeated in another, such as background information on the company a candidate worked for or the candidate’s role within a particular organization. These sentences and phrases, usually in the introduction of each essay or as an added description along the body of the essay, not only waste precious space, but also negatively affect the flow and readability of your essay as a whole.

Keep in mind that each essay you write for the same school is part of a single application package, like chapters of a very short book. In order to create the best applciation possible, you must review your complete set of essays in one sitting to ensure that they complement each other well and provide a multi-dimensional personal profile with the right tone for the particular school you are applying to.

2) Use different settings
Just as a Tom Cruise kept viewers engaged during the Mission Impossible series by showcasing his superhuman physical stunts in various locations such as an opera house in Vienna, a power plant in Morocco and a train station in London, among others, an MBA applicant’s essay would be much more captivating if the candidate’s personal qualities were highlighted through different contexts.

This does not necessarily mean you need to use various geographic locations as the backdrop of your essays (not all of us are as free to travel the globe as Tom Cruise), but rather, to choose to highlight defining moments from your life across various work situations, extra-curricular activities, passions and stories.

By default, most applicants are a bit bias in choosing to use examples from their current work situations, as this is where they spend the majority of their time and where their most recent experiences have occurred. Thus, without careful thought, applicants often end up answering many or most of their essay questions with examples pertaining to only their most recent employment. However, this wastes the opportunity to show the admissions committee your diverse experiences and interests.

Before writing your essays, it is essential to carve out the time to take an inventory of experiences you’d like to highlight and outline your whole set of essays. Afterwards, identify for each essay the settings you can use to display a particular talking point. Doing this saves you time, and puts forth a richly textured personal application.

Following these two steps ensures that you’ll make the most of the limited  essay space you are given so that your overall MBA application package stands out from the competition.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Written by Edison Cu, a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for INSEAD.

Don’t Obsess Over GMAT and GPA Numbers on Your MBA Application!

08fba0fEach year, the majority of anxiety for business school applicants tends to revolve around their GMAT and GPA numbers. Without fail, candidates drive themselves crazy wondering whether their GMAT score or GPA is high enough to gain admission to their target MBA program.

These MBA data points are, of course, just as important an aspect of the decision making process as any of the others, but many candidates obsess over the raw numbers in a disproportionate manner. No matter how many times an admissions officer speaks out publicly about the importance of the non-data elements of the application process the message often falls on deaf ears.

Admissions Committees generally want to know who you are as a person. If numbers were truly the only factor taken into consideration with MBA applications, then most top schools would have classes filled with students who have +700 GMAT scores and +3.5 GPAs, but this is not the case – just a quick look at the class profile of any top business school will confirm this.

What is far less common is the rare candidate who can connect their own personal story with the values and culture of their target program. Candidates oven undervalue how truly unique they are because the time spent undergoing the business school self-assessment process is often limited.

Now, letting admissions know who you are does not mean just talking about your job. Dive deeper and share aspects and anecdotes of your unique story that have defined your life up until this point. Tying such a narrative to your personal and professional hopes and dreams can be particularly powerful, and can truly help an applicant stand out against the competition way more than a +700 GMAT score can.

An applicant’s story – and being able to connect that personal narrative with a particular school’s values – is even more important for candidates whose GMAT and GPA are less competitive when considering school-specific averages. This personal approach is effective for all candidates, but is a necessity for candidates who may have obvious data-related red flags in their profile. By being authentic and creating a holistic application package, an applicant can convince the Admissions Committee that their low GMAT or GPA will not affect their academic experience (or the experiences of their peers) on campus or in career options in the future.

Avoid the mistake that many candidates fall victim to every year of obsessing over scores and understand that your numbers do not define you – the greater focus you put in sharing the “real” you in your application process, the better your chances of admission will be.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can find more of his articles here.

SAT Tip of the Week: How to Write a Perfect Essay on the New SAT

SAT Tip of the Week - FullOn the old SAT, the essay questions were often vague philosophical prompts asking you to develop and support your position on the topic. This opened itself up to all sorts of shenanigans by students, like blatantly lying about personal examples (I’m guilty…) or using examples from classic novels to show off their smarts.

On the new SAT, the format of the essay is different. Now the SAT is about analyzing how an author develops her argument and convinces readers of her point. This difference means that the same old strategies won’t cut it anymore. Luckily, there’s an effective way to make the new essay as formulaic as the old essay, giving students a useful framework that they can always use, regardless of the prompt

First, here are the directions for the essay. The top of the page will read something like:

As you read the passage below, consider how (the author) uses

  • evidence, such as facts or examples, to support claims.
  • reasoning to develop ideas and to connect claims and evidence.
  • stylistic or persuasive elements, such as word choice or appeals to emotion, to add power to the ideas expressed.

After the article, the instructions for the essay will be:

Write an essay in which you explain how (the author) builds an argument to persuade his/her audience that (author’s argument is true). In your essay, analyze how (the author) uses one or more of the features in the directions that precede the passage (or features of your own choice) to strengthen the logic and persuasiveness of his/her argument. Be sure that your analysis focuses on the most relevant features of the passage.

Your essay should not explain whether you agree with (the author’s) claims, but rather explain how (the author) builds an argument to persuade his/her audience.

At first glance, these directions might seem vague. “Evidence,” “reasoning,” and “stylistic or persuasive elements” are sometimes too broad to conceive an essay out of. Here’s where my strategy comes in.

On every essay, I like to have three go-to techniques that I always look for when reading the article and can use in my essay. These three are pathos, logos, and ethos – modes of persuasion that are present in practically all argumentative writing, these three techniques are easy to apply to an SAT essay. Plus, analyzing how the author uses these intellectual terms will show your grader that you have a high-level command of rhetorical analysis, and set you up for a classic five-paragraph essay. Let’s break down these techniques further:

Pathos is an appeal to emotion. Authors use pathos to draw readers into their pieces and connect them with the story. You can often find examples of pathos in anecdotes, calls to action, or appeals to a common purpose.

Logos is an appeal to logic.  Authors use logos to make their pieces more intellectually persuasive and consistent. You can often find examples of logos in the use of data, statistics, or research. You can also find logos in trains of reasoning: if x happens, then y will also happen, because of factor z (or something akin to that).

Ethos is an appeal to ethics, character, or credibility. Authors use ethos to add authority or legitimacy to their arguments. This can be done by demonstrating that the author is qualified to make the argument he or she is making. It can also be done by citing experts or authority figures who let the reader know that the author’s claims are backed up by sound evidence or opinion. As such, ethos is often present in quotes from experts or citations of authority figures.

These three techniques – pathos, logos and ethos – are specific and complex enough to let you write a sophisticated new SAT essay, as well as broad enough to allow you to find and analyze them in any article the SAT essay throws at you. This combination of factors creates a structure of analyzing how the author uses pathos, logos and ethos to build his or her argument that is a great way to approach the new SAT essay.

Still need to take the SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Aidan Calvelli.

Answer ACT Reading Questions By Matching the Author’s Tone to the Answer Choices

ReflectingOne of the best ways to attack the Reading Section on the ACT is to look for reasons to eliminate answer choices. In other words, rather than try to find evidence for each answer choice to determine whether or not it is correct, you can identify reasons as to why you can eliminate answer choices because they are incorrect.

In this post, I’ll be covering one easy trick you can use to eliminate at least one answer choice on a surprisingly high number of questions in the ACT Reading Section – matching the author’s tone to the choices. Quickly read the following excerpt:

Russian author Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy, perhaps better known as Leo Tolstoy, is largely considered the most prolific Russian novelist in history. Most famous for his two long novels War and Peace, which he penned in 1869, and Anna Karenina, which he wrote in 1877, Tolstoy was a master of realistic fiction. While not the beginning of his literary career, his rise to prominence began when he accounted his experiences in the Crimean War with Sevastopol Sketches, his first acclaimed work. Soon after, between 1855 and 1858, he published a self-autobiographical trilogy, Childhood, Boyhood, and Youth, recounting through fictional characters his own childhood with a sentimentality he later rebuffed as poor writing. Toward the end of his life, Tolstoy became more of a moral thinker and social reformer, transitioning from poplar novelist to evangelical essayist.

Even after a quick read-through, you should be able to describe the author’s tone. (And if you don’t feel comfortable doing so, now is the time to start!) That is, you should be able to ask yourself, “Is the author’s tone laudatory? Is it critical? Is it neutral? Is it persuasive?” and so on. In short, you should have a general sense of whether or not the author has a positive, negative, or neutral stance towards their subject, and you should also have a sense of the degree – i.e. is the author strongly critical, or do they just have some reservations?

Now, go ahead and write down what you think the author’s tone is in the above excerpt.

In this case, the author’s tone is laudatory, as the author calls Tolstoy “prolific” and  a “master of realistic fiction.” So, keep in mind that descriptive terms – adjectives, descriptive phrases, and the like – will clue you in on what the author’s tone is.

Now that we’ve identified the author’s tone, take a look at the following question*:

According to the passage, it could be concluded that the novel War and Peace was:

(A) The first of Leo Tolstoy’s works to be published.
(B) Leo Tolstoy’s last novel of any cultural or literary significance.
(C) Written by Leo Tolstoy after he wrote his self-autobiographical trilogy.
(D) Written by Leo Tolstoy using inspirations from his experience in the Crimean War.

Without rereading the passage, I can immediately eliminate one of the answer choices. Why?  Because it is distinctly different than the author’s tone. The author is praising Tolstoy, so answer choice B, which comes off as critical (Saying that the book is Tolstoy’s last novel of any cultural or literary significance is pretty dang snarky!), couldn’t be the correct answer.

Let’s use this strategy again on a few more questions. First, read the following excerpt and identify the author’s tone:

“A handicapped child represents a qualitative different, unique type of development… If a blind child or a deaf child achieves the same level of development as a normal child, then the child with a defect achieves this in another way, by another course, by another means; and, for the pedagogue, it is particularly important to know the uniqueness of the course along which he must lead the child. This uniqueness transforms the minus of a handicap into the plus of compensation.”

That such radical adaptions could occur demanded, Luria thought, a new view of the brain, a sense of it not as programmed and static, but rather as dynamic and active, a supremely efficient adaptive system geared for evolution and change, ceaselessly adapting to the needs of the organism – its need, above all, to construct a coherent self and world, whatever defects or disorders of brain functions befell it. That the brain is minutely differentiated is clear: there are hundreds of tiny areas crucial for every aspect of perception and behavior. The miracle is how they all cooperate, are integrated together, in the creation of a self.

In this passage, the author’s tone is positive. The author uses the words  “dynamic,” “active” and “miracle,” and cites another author (in the first paragraph) who uses the word “unique.” Thus, these descriptive phrases allow me to conclude that the author takes a positive tone towards his or her subjects of handicaps and the brain.

Now, let’s take a look at some questions. The goal of this exercise is simply to notice what answer choices we can eliminate (not what the correct answers are) without rereading by simply noticing which tones of the answer choices does not match the tone of the author.

The author’s main purpose in the second paragraph is to show:

(A) how he has come to think differently about the brain.
(B) why sickness often causes a contraction of life.
(C) when he had made new discoveries about the brain.
(D) which of his subjects helped him redefine the term “norm.”

With just a quick look at this question, I can immediately eliminate answer choice B. This option takes a negative tone towards sickness, which is clearly out of line with the author’s tone.

Simple enough! Let’s try another question:

The quotation in the first paragraph is used in this passage to support the idea that:

(A) children with handicaps should be studied in the same way as children defined by physicians as “normal.”
(B) deficits need to demonstrate intactness in order to be judged acceptable.
(C) neural or sensory mishap occurs in children as well as adults.
(D) development of children with handicaps may proceed in positive yet quite distinctive ways.

Once again, you will notice that the tone of one of the answer choices stands out as distinctly different from the author’s tone: answer choice B is unusually harsh in tone (judging a deficit “acceptable” comes off as rather cold, if not outright inhumane), so I can make the decision, even without rereading the quote, to eliminate B.

The more adept you get at noting the author’s tone, the more naturally this strategy will come to you. So, next time you do a practice reading section, try incorporating this strategy into your studies.

*Note that I can use the matching tone strategy on these questions because they all reference the purpose of the author (namely, they begin with the phrases “according to the passage,” “the author’s main purpose,” “the quotation is used in this passage to support,” etc.). However, if the questions had asked about a different point of view than the author’s, I wouldn’t be able to use this strategy.

Still need to take the ACT? We run a free online ACT prep seminar every few weeks. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Rita Pearson

What MBA Class Size is Best for You?

In ClassThere are many different characteristics that can factor into selecting the right business school for you. From school reputation, recruiting, and alumni network to teaching style and professors, MBA programs come in all shapes and sizes. One aspect that is often overlooked in the business school search process is class size – not to be confused with the size of individual classes within a school or by the size of the entire student body.

Why is this so important?  The class size of your MBA factors into many aspects of your business school experience and will continue to influence your career many years after matriculation. MBA programs like the Tuck School at Dartmouth or the Johnson School at Cornell boast tight knit cultures that offer small class sizes. By contrast, programs such as Harvard Business School, Columbia Business School and the Wharton School at Penn boast large class sizes with deep alumni networks.

So what type of environment is right for you? Only you can say, but consider the following:

What setting do you thrive in? For some, a bigger class size would be too overwhelming, while others might thrive in this setting but feel intimidated by the intimacy of a smaller class size. The decision to pursue an MBA is an intensely personal one, as is the type of program you choose, so be sure to reflect on your preferences to ensure the class size of the program you choose will mesh well with your unique personality.

How will the class size of your target program impact your future career options? With a larger student body often comes more resources and access to a wider breadth of recruiters, however, such large a large student population also brings the risk of potentially finding yourself “lost” in the crowd of your classmates. Do some research and ensure the programs and recruiters necessary to support your career development align with the type of class you are looking to join.

Are you more inclined to build small, closer relationships or broadly connect with many? Bigger programs can allow you to better address both of these options, while smaller programs may restrict your ability to accomplish the latter.

However, it is important to note that the culture of a school’s student community may play a more important factor than even overall class size. For example, Northwestern’s Kellogg School (a program with large class sizes) has historically been known to have very collaborative students, which counteracts the stereotypes commonly associated with programs of its size. This just goes to show that an MBA program can’t always be judged on its size.

As always, research is the key go beyond common stereotypes associated with programs of all sizes and make an informed decision as you construct your target school list or make a matriculation decision.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can find more of his articles here.

Updated GMAT Score Cancellation and Reinstatement Policies: What This Means For You

GMAT Cancel ScoresGMAC has updated its score cancelation and reinstatement policies for GMAT test-takers. A full description of these changes is included in GMAC’s recently published blog article, but here are some highlights and guidance on what this means for future GMAT test-takers:

What is Changing?
If you took the GMAT and felt like you needed more time to decide whether or not to cancel your score, then you’ll be happy with GMAC’s new policy. Test-takers now have 5 years to reinstate their scores and 3 days to cancel them. Before this, test-takers had to be much more rushed in making their decisions, with only 60 days to reinstate their scores, and a mere 2 minutes to cancel them.

The cost of these actions is also much more forgiving: it is now only $50 to reinstate your score (compared to the previous $100 fee), however you will have to pay a fee of $25 to cancel your score if you choose to do so after leaving the test center.

What is NOT Changing?
GMAC has kept several of its cancelation and reinstatement policies intact. For example, it is still true that if you choose to cancel your score, no one but you will know about it. There is also still no fee to cancel your score at the test center, and the period you must wait to retake the GMAT is still 16 days.

Why Does This Matter?
Why do we even care about this change in the GMAC’s policies? Well for one, it allows for much more flexibility in the test-taking process, as test-takers

who choose to cancel their scores now have much more time to prepare for their next test administration. (No more scrambling to prepare for a retest in 16 days!) However, it is still important to remember that the GMAT retest policy still applies, in that you cannot take the GMAT more than 5 times in 12 months, so it is important to build a “buffer” into your prep schedule. If you test too close to an MBA application deadline, you won’t have time to retest.

These changes in policy also just go to show us that nothing in life is free (except canceling at the test center). If you want the convenience and luxury of having extra time to make your decisions, you’d better be ready to pay up for it. To minimize this cost, test-takers should have a target GMAT score in mind as well as a plan going into the test, and then actually stick to that plan upon receiving a final score. Think of this like buying an airline ticket – many airlines will let you hold a ticket for free, but it can cost an additional fee to hold it for up to a week. The same idea applies here. Additional time isn’t going to change your score and it shouldn’t impact what score you’re willing to accept, so have a game plan going into test day and stick to it to avoid unnecessary fees.

It is also worth noting that most business schools will still accept a candidate’s highest GMAT score (after all, it is in the school’s best interests to report having students with high average GMAT scores), so if you take the GMAT and score moderately higher than you did the last time you took the test, it may not be necessary to actually cancel your lower score. Talk to the schools to which you’re applying to understand the programs’ policies, but don’t overthink it. Unless there’s a significant gap between your old and new score (+100 points), or you achieved an extremely low score one of the times you took the test (below 500 points), save your money and keep all of your scores.

Getting ready to take the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+, and Twitter!

By Joanna Graham

How to Choose the Right College Curriculum for You

student reseachIn many high school students’ college search processes, the most important factors they look for in schools are things like housing, location, size and student body. While all these factors may be important, students often miss one huge aspect of college – school itself! Sounds obvious, right? But sometimes it can be easy to forge that college is still school, and that school will actually take up the majority of your college time.

So, to make sure you make the best college choice for you, it’s important to also look at academic aspects of a school, like their curriculum requirements – by this, I mean general education requirements, distribution requirements, major requirements, language requirements, study abroad programs, and a host of other things. Since school is going to take up so much of your time, it’s important that you spend this time in a curricular environment that you like and that challenges you to grow academically.

There are three general forms that a college’s curriculum can take: let’s call them moderate, strict, and open.

Most colleges around the country have moderately structured curriculums. At these schools, students are required to take a few courses in a variety of different fields (often referred to as “General Education” or “GE” courses) while also completing a major. Usually, you will have freedom in which course you choose to take in these required fields – for example, students might have to take 2 humanities classes, 2 science classes, 2 social sciences classes and 2 math classes in order to graduate, but the specific classes the students take within these fields is up to them.

Many students will choose to fulfill these requirements early on in their first couple of years at school, and then use their remaining time as upperclassmen to take electives and complete their major.

Schools with strict curriculums have a set of classes that all students must take – these colleges believe that there are certain classes that are valuable to everyone and feel that creating a common “core” of classes is valuable to the student body as a whole. Unlike moderate curriculums, strict curriculums will usually be very specific with which individual classes you are required to take. Schools like Columbia University and University of Chicago have well-known core curriculums that are a hallmark of the academic experience at these schools. This type of curriculum is helpful for students who like structure and want to know exactly what they are getting in to.

My personal favorite is the open curriculum, which allows students a great degree of freedom in choosing their classes. There are no “GE’s” or distribution requirements, and there are rarely any specific class requirements at all. Admittedly, very few schools have this type of curriculum, but if you’re the type of student who likes taking on the responsibility of designing their own education, an open curriculum might be right for you. Colleges like Brown, Grinnell and Amherst are well known for their curricular freedom. At times, the freedom in an open curriculum can be daunting, but when it is used well, this type of curriculum can be incredibly freeing for students who like to explore all their passions.

Now that you’re familiar with the general types of curriculum options, it’s time to start researching! Figure out what academics style best suits you as a student, and then go out and find colleges that match that. Each type of curriculum has its advantages and disadvantages, so make sure the one at your school will work for your needs and help you grow into a stronger student.

Do you still need help with your college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and register to attend one of our FREE Online College WorkshopsAnd as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

By Aidan Calvelli.

What Makes GMAT Quant Questions So Hard?

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomWe know that the essentials of the GMAT Quant section are pretty simple: advanced topics such as derivatives, complex numbers, matrices and trigonometry are not included, while fundamentals we all learned from our high school math books are included. So it would be natural to think that the GMAT Quant section should not pose much of a problem for most test-takers (especially for engineering students, who have actually covered far more advanced math during their past studies).

Hence, it often comes as a shock when many test-takers, including engineering students, receive a dismal Quant score on the first practice test they take. Of course, with practice, they usually wise up to the treachery of the GMAT, but until then, the Quant section is responsible for many a nightmare!

Today, let’s see what kind of treachery we are talking about – problems like this make some people laugh out loud and others pull at their hair!

Is the product pqr divisible by 12?
Statement 1: p is a multiple of 3
Statement 2: q is a multiple of 4

This seems like an easy C (Statements 1 and 2 together are sufficient, but alone are not sufficient), doesn’t it? P is a multiple of 3 and q is a multiple of 4, so together, p*q would be a multiple of 3*4 = 12. If p * q is already a multiple of 12, then obviously it would seem that p*q*r would be a multiple of 12, too.

But here is the catch – where is it mentioned that r must be an integer? Just because p and q are integers (multiples of 3 and 4 respectively), it does not imply that r must also be an integer.

If r is an integer, then sure, p*q*r will be divisible by 12. Imagine, however, that p = 3, q = 4 and r = 1/12. Now the product p*q*r = 3*4*(1/12) = 1. 1 is not divisible by 12, so in this case, pqr is not divisible by 12. Hence, both statements together are not sufficient to answer the question, and our answer is in fact E!

This question is very basic, but it still tricks us because we want to assume that p, q and r are clean integer values.

Along these same lines, let’s try the another one:

If 10^a * 3^b * 5^c = 450^n, what is the value of c?
Statement 1: a is 1.
Statement 2:  b is 2.

The first thing most of us will do here is split 450 into its prime factors:

450 = 2 * 3^2 * 5^2

450^n = 2^n * 3^2n * 5^2n

And do the same thing with the left side of the equation:

10^a * 3^b * 5^c = 2^a * 3^b * 5^(a+c)

Bringing the given equation back, we get:

2^a * 3^b * 5^(a+c) = 2^n * 3^2n * 5^2n

Statement 1: a is 1.

Equating the power of 2 on both sides, we see that a = n = 1.

a + c = 2n (equating the power of 5 on both sides)

1 + c = 2

c = 1

Statement 2:  b is 2.

Equating the power of 3 on both sides, we see that b = 2n = 2, so n = 1.

If n = 1, a = 1 by equating the powers of 2 on both sides.

a + c = 2n (equating the power of 5 on both sides)

1 + c = 2

c = 1

So it seems that both statements are separately sufficient. But hold on – again, the variables here don’t need to be cleanly fitting integers. The variables could pan out the way discussed in our first problem, or very differently.

Say, n = 1. When Statement 1 gives you that a = 1, you get 10^1 * 3^b * 5^c = 450^1.

3^b * 5^c = 45

Now note that value of c depends on the value of b, which needn’t be 2.

If b  = 3, then 3^3 * 5^c = 45.

5^c = 45/27

C will take a non-integer value here.

c = .3174

The question does not mention that all variables are integers, therefore there are infinite values that c can take depending on the values of b. Similarly, we can see that Statement 2 alone is also not sufficient. Using both statements together, you will get:

2^a * 3^b * 5^(a+c) = 450^n

2^1 * 3^2 * 5^(1 + c) = 450^n

5^(1 + c) = 450^n/18

By now, you’ve probably realized that depending on the value of n, c can take infinite different values. If n = 1, c = 1. If n = 2, c = 4.8. And so on… We don’t need to actually find these values – it is enough to know that different values of n will give different values of c.

With this in mind, we can see that both statements together are not sufficient, and therefore our answer must be E.

Hopefully, in future, this sneaky trick will not get you!

Getting ready to take the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+, and Twitter!

Karishma, a Computer Engineer with a keen interest in alternative Mathematical approaches, has mentored students in the continents of Asia, Europe and North America. She teaches the GMAT for Veritas Prep and regularly participates in content development projects such as this blog!

Take the 2016 MBA Applicant Survey and Win $500!

AIGACSince 2009, the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC) has regularly conducted a large survey to study trends among business school applicants. The results are shared with AIGAC member consultants and with MBA programs to help them better anticipate the needs of those who will soon apply to business school. Over the past few years, there have even been changes made to some business schools’ applications as a result of AIGAC survey findings!

This online survey should take just a few minutes to complete. We would love to receive as many responses as possible before the survey closes in early April – and we would like to see one of our readers win the $500 cash prize!

Simply click here to begin the survey.

More about the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants: AIGAC promotes high ethical standards and professional development among graduate admissions consultants, increases public understanding of graduate admissions consulting, and enhances channels of communication with complementary organizations and entities.

Thanks in advance for your participation, and good luck with the drawing!

Haven’t applied to business school yet? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 to speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

GMAT Tip of the Week: Verbal Is About The Beat, Not The Lyrics

GMAT Tip of the WeekOn our final Friday of Hip Hop Month here in the “GMAT Tip of the Week” space, let’s take a moment to appreciate the unsung (or at least non-singing) heroes of hip hop. Did you like Snoop and Tupac in the early 90s, or Eminem in the late 90s? They spit the rhymes, but what you likely enjoy most through your Beats By Dre are Dr. Dre’s classic beats.

A fan of Jay-Z and Cam’ron in the early 2000s? There’s no H to the Izzo or Heart of the City without Kanye West’s beats behind them. More recently, Kane Beatz and DJ Khaled have been the masterminds behind those bangers that you know as Drake, Lil’ Wayne, or Nicki Minaj hits.

So, ok The Game wouldn’t get far without Kanye behind him, and 50 Cent would be in da club cleaning the bathrooms without that classic beat by Dre. But what does this have to do with your GMAT score?

One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a GMAT examinee is to see the question for its subject matter (“it’s about crime rates” or “it’s about antihistamines”) and not for its structure (“it’s a wordplay difference” or “that’s classic generalization”). The subject matter is the lyrics that tend to get the glory, but the standardized-format structure is the beat. Even though you may find the lyrics “Go Shorty, it’s your birthday…” in your head, that’s not at all what you like about that song. It’s the epic beat. The same is true for GMAT verbal questions: what makes them tick, and what you should keep your focus on, is the structure behind that content.

Consider two examples, which may look entirely different but are actually the exact same question:

Example #1: The city of Goshorn has a substantial problem with its budgeting process for public works projects. Last year’s Sullivan Park expansion ran nearly 50% over budget, for example, and the city has gone from running an annual budget surplus for nearly two decades straight to now facing prohibitive budget deficits.

Which of the following, if true, most strengthens the argument that Goshorn has a substantial problem with its budgeting process?

(A) The Sullivan Park expansion project featured the smallest cost-above-budget percentage of all Goshorn’s public works projects.
(B) Goshorn’s budgeting process for public works has not been updated in nearly 20 years.
(C) A new hiking and jogging trail in Goshorn cost more than twice as much to construct as did a similar project completed just ten years earlier.
(D) Goshorn’s revenue from property taxes has decreased markedly since the height of the real estate boom five years earlier.
(E) The city of Goshorn does not receive any federal or state funding for its public works projects, although several nearby cities do.

Example #2: The introduction of a new drug into the marketplace should be contingent upon our having a good understanding of its social impact. However, the social impact of the newly marketed antihistamine is far from clear. It is obvious, then, that there should be a general reduction in the pace of bringing to the marketplace new drugs that are now being created.

Which one of the following, if true, most strengthens the argument?

(A) The social impact of the new antihistamine is much better understood than that of most new drugs being tested.
(B) The social impact of some of the new drugs being tested is poorly understood.
(C) The economic success of some drugs is inversely proportional to how well we understand their social impact.
(D) The new antihistamine is chemically similar to some of the new drugs being tested.
(E) The new antihistamine should be next on the market only if most new drugs being tested should be on the market also.

In each case, exactly one example is provided as evidence that there is an overall, general problem going on. In the first, that example is Sullivan Park, a project that ran over budget, leading to the conclusion that “the city has a substantial problem with its budgeting process.” In the second, exactly one new antihistamine is known to be poorly understood, leading to the conclusion that there should be a “general reduction” in the pace of bringing drugs to market (since, as the argument states, drugs should be well understood before they’re brought to the marketplace).

This is classic generalization, a common theme in Critical Reasoning problems. One example is given and a much broader conclusion is drawn, which is a flawed argument because you just don’t know whether that example is an outlier or the norm. In each of these two problems, your job is to strengthen the argument, so you want to employ the “Strengthen a Generalization Error” strategy – you want to find evidence in the answer choice that the single piece of evidence is indicative of the majority of data points.

With the first example, Answer Choice A does that by showing that Sullivan Park was actually the best-budgeted project (the smallest cost-above-budget percentage). If that poorly-budgeted project is the best, then all the other projects must be worse, and THEN you have a substantial problem overall. In the second example, again Choice A serves the exact same purpose: if the one antihistamine we know about is better understood than most, then most drugs are less-understood, meaning that the majority of drugs are poorly understood. And if that’s the case, then yes, we can draw that general conclusion.

The overall lesson?

GMAT verbal problems can be about anything under the sun: elections in fake countries, the heights of trees in the Galapagos, warranty claims on heavy duty trucks, the visibility of particles breaking off from comets…but that’s not what the test is about. Focus on the beats, and not the lyrics. And the common Critical Reasoning beats are:

1) Generalization
Like you saw here, if a general/universal conclusion is drawn from one data point, you want to either show that that data point is indicative of most/all (Strengthen) or that it’s an outlier (Weaken).

2) Correlation/Causation
Just because two things occur together (For example, “It’s dark so it must be nighttime.”) does not mean that one causes the other (What about an eclipse, or the fact that your hotel room has blackout shades?).

3) Clever Wordplay
This is the most common type of logical error in Critical Reasoning, in which one premise uses a closely-related term (for example “arrests”) to the term that another premise and/or the conclusion uses (“crimes committed”). When you identify that those two things are close but not quite the same, then your job is clear: find an answer choice that links them together (in a Strengthen question) or one that shows that they’re clearly not the same thing (Weaken).

4) Statistics and Data Flaws
When statistics are used in Critical Reasoning problems, look to make sure that the proper type of statistic is used (does an absolute number make sense, or should it be a percentage?) and that the statistic directly relates to the conclusion (much like the “Clever Wordplay” strategy).

Most importantly, recognize that the content of these problems is more or less a necessary evil: the problems have to be about something, but that’s not what they’re really testing. They’re testing your understanding of the underlying logic and structure. So in honor of all the great DJs that have gotten your shoulders shaking and toes tapping over the years, remember that to beat the GMAT, you’ll have to do it with the beats.

Getting ready to take the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTubeGoogle+ and Twitter!

By Brian Galvin.

7 Tips to Make the Most of Your College Office Hours

ProfessorEvery college orientation I ever attended strongly emphasized the importance of attending office hours in building relationships with professors, allowing students to explore subject material in greater depth, and laying groundwork for strong letters of recommendation in the future. Even so, most college students I know either glean very little from office hours or do not attend them at all.

Office hours were by far the best and most useful parts of my college classes, but it took me most of my undergraduate career to start making the most of them. Here’s what I learned:

1) Just go. Individual attention from professors is rare and valuable, especially in large classes (like the ones I take at UC Berkeley, which sometimes hold hundreds of students.) Often, office hours is the only one-on-one time you’ll ever get.

2) Be sure you’ve done the reading and are caught up on the class. It is both embarrassing for you and impolite towards your professor to use his or her extra time to make up for work you should have already done. Make a good impression by showing that you take his or her class seriously.

3) Don’t be scared. Professors are often more relaxed and approachable in office hours than they are during classtime. Many enjoy working with undergraduates, or prefer more individual interaction with students over the more impersonal environment of the classroom. (Also, if you haven’t had much experience with it before, it is useful and important to learn to be comfortable interacting with superiors and authority figures. Office hours are a great way to do that.)

4) Have some questions prepared in advance. Don’t feel limited to only talking about the class; professors are often a great source of career planning advice, information about your field of interest, and tips about what other classes you might find interesting.

5) Be interested in the answers you get. Office hours allow you to learn about a field from the experts themselves. Take advantage of your access to them – and strike a better rapport with your professor – by taking a real interest in the insights your professor offers (or at least making a sincere effort to).

6) Be honest about how well you’re doing in the class. If you’re struggling to understand a concept in your class and have made an honest effort to do so, it’s perfectly fine to admit it. Your professor can help, and will appreciate your honest; he or she wants you to learn their material just as much as you want to pass the class.

7) Stay open-minded. Office hours aren’t just a networking opportunity. Networking for networking’s sake has its advantages sometimes, but your experience in office hours will be more productive and meaningful (and your letter of recommendation, if you get one, will be better) if you really get to know the person you’re talking to.

Do you still need help with your college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and register to attend one of our FREE Online College WorkshopsAnd as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

Courtney Tran is a student at UC Berkeley, studying Political Economy and Rhetoric. In high school, she was named a National Merit Finalist and National AP Scholar, and she represented her district two years in a row in Public Forum Debate at the National Forensics League National Tournament.

SAT Tip of the Week: The Importance of Knowing What Will Be On the SAT

SAT Tip of the Week - FullNow that the SAT has changed, students all over the country are spending their time making sure they keep up with the new content and questions that might now be on the test. Learning about new content is valuable – clearly, you have to know the subjects being tested in order to do well. But in the scramble to brush up on trigonometry and America’s founding documents, students seem to be forgetting another big change on the test: its format.

The new SAT is structured differently than the old SAT in terms of section length, order, scoring, and instructions. To do your best on this exam, it is imperative that you come into test day knowing exactly what it is going to look like. If you walk in thinking it will be like the SAT last year, you will be in for a shock.

The main reason it’s so important to know the structure and form of the test is that people get better scores when they can focus all their attention on the actual questions, rather than the instructions. For me at least, being nervous that I’m doing something wrong or not knowing what will come next on the test would only hurt my score.

So, it is well worth every student’s time to use a day of studying to familiarize themselves with the instructions, structure, and types of questions that will be on the SAT. Pop onto the College Board’s website or get your hands on an official practice test and read over all the directions on the test, down to the last word. True, much of this will be tedious and unnecessary, but you don’t want any surprises on test day. Reading through the new SAT will yield some important information about what the new test looks like. A sampling of important changes is below:

  • There are now only 4 main sections on the SAT: Reading, Writing and Language, No-Calculator Math, and Calculator Math. These sections are all longer than 25 minutes, whereas the old test had sections that were all shorter than 25 minutes.
  • There is no penalty for answering incorrectly. This means that when you are bubbling in your answer sheet, you should definitely guess on all questions to which you don’t know the answer.
  • Some questions will require you to analyze an article and a chart in tandem. So don’t freak out when you see a graph on the reading section!
  • The new essay, which is optional and 50 minutes long, asks you to analyze an author’s argument rather than craft an opinion of your own. If you aren’t careful to understand what the essay is asking for, your resulting work won’t yield a high score.

When I just took the March SAT, I witnessed firsthand the negative consequences of not being familiar with the new test. As the essay started, a student sitting to my right raised her hand and tried to ask the proctor a question about the essay. He wasn’t allowed to answer, and the student remained confused about what to do. While I hope that the student ended up scoring well on her test, I advise you to not make the same mistake she did.

Study up and make sure nothing about the structure about the new SAT catches you off guard, and you will be set on your way to a good score. If you are comfortable with the way the test operates and how it will look on test day, the peace of mind that you’ll have is one little advantage that you’ll have over all the other students who didn’t put the time in to prepare.

Still need to take the SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Aidan Calvelli.

Breaking Down the 2017 U.S. News Ranking of Top Business Schools: Part 2

US News College Rankings

Make sure you check out Part 1 of this article before you begin reading more of our thoughts on the recently released U.S. News and World Report‘s 2017 ranking of Best Business Schools. Now let’s take a deeper look at some of the surprises this year’s rankings presented:


Ranking surprises 
We were quite surprised to see Columbia (#10) come behind Tuck and Yale this year (ranked #8 and #9 respectively). Columbia has a very high yield of admitted applicants who choose to attend the school, and it has been working hard to foster a more collaborative culture. However, Tuck’s employment statistics and remarkably high percentage of graduates receiving a signing bonus (87%!) play well to the U.S. News methodology. We shouldn’t sell Tuck short, though, as other intangibles at Tuck not included in this ranking — such as student satisfaction, alumni network, and tight-knit culture — also rate among the highest of any MBA program.

Yale snagged Dean Ted Snyder from Chicago Booth back in 2011 after he presided over its precipitous rise in the rankings. His magic potion seems to be working at Yale as well, and we’ve dubbed him the “Rankings Whisperer.” He thoroughly understands the drivers of rankings and pushes all levers to the max to improve the standings of his schools. Yale has begun to move away from its ties to the social and nonprofit sectors, driving up average starting salaries and recruitment percentages, but perhaps distancing the program from its roots.

University of Virginia’s Darden School always seems to be the sleeper success story, and this year is no exception. With its best placement in more than a decade, Darden came in at #11. Darden’s reputation amongst peer schools and recruiters is not as strong as most other programs ranked in the top 15, but it has a very strong starting salary/bonus and other statistics.

Be wary of average salary numbers
The U.S. News ranking incorporates average salary plus signing bonus in its rankings, which in theory, is not a bad thing. After all, many applicants desire to gain an MBA, at least in part, to improve their salary potential. However, we recommend that you look at salaries just like the rankings themselves—by using the numbers in a broader context. After all, the difference in average salary and bonus between Harvard (ranked #1 overall) and Cornell (ranked #14 overall), is less than $5,000 per year.

If you analyze the data industry-by-industry (as we have), you’ll find that there’s little difference in salaries coming out of the top 10 to 15 programs. The biggest difference is the percentage of graduates who are able to land positions in highly selective industries, such as private equity. But here’s the rub: most of these highly selective industries are looking for extremely qualified candidates who have pre-MBA experience that fits their needs. So even if you manage to squeeze into Harvard or Stanford, if you don’t have the pre-MBA experience that these firms are looking for, then you’re going to have a tough time getting an interview, much less landing a job, in the highest paying private equity or venture capital positions.

Also, some roles, such as in investment banking, do not have as high of base salaries or signing bonuses, but a high percentage of your income will come from performance-based quarterly and annual bonuses. Other roles simply pay less, such as marketing and product management, but remain very attractive to a significant number of MBA graduates. Schools with a higher percentage of graduates taking these roles, such as Kellogg, can have lower overall salary averages, when their graduates make as much or more than peers within their chosen industry. None of this information can be captured in the U.S. News ranking.

Bottom line: Are you likely to make more money coming out of a program ranked #5 than ranked #20? Yes. But should you let this number dictate your decision between #7 and #12? Not necessarily. There are many other factors to consider, such as whether your target companies, industries, and so forth.

A holistic approach
We’ve provided a bit of context and analysis around this year’s ranking, and we encourage you to use these lists as merely a starting point in your research process. We encourage you to take advantage of our Veritas Prep Essential Guide to Top Business Schools to assist in your process, as it’s now available for free on our website!

In addition, if you’re interested in finding out your chances of admission to the top schools, you can sign up for a free profile evaluation to explore your individual strengths and weaknesses. Veritas Prep has worked with thousands of successful applicants to the top business schools, and we look forward to assisting you on your own journey!

Travis Morgan is the Director of Admissions Consulting for Veritas Prep and earned his MBA with distinction from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. He served in the Kellogg Student Admissions Office, Alumni Admissions Organization and Diversity & Inclusion Council, among several other posts. Travis joined Veritas Prep as an admissions consultant and GMAT instructor, and he was named Worldwide Instructor of the Year in 2011. 

New GMAT Undergraduate Pricing Initiative

featured_money@wdd2xIn an effort to attract more undergraduate test takers, GMAC is rolling out a tiered pricing structure for students who register for the GMAT before June 1, 2016 and complete the test by December 31, 2016.

While targeted undergrad outreach efforts and undergrad discounts on the GMAT aren’t new to GMAC, the scale and diversity in pricing is. (GMAC piloted discounting test registration fees a few years ago on select U.S. undergrad campuses as part of a partnership program with select test prep companies and universities.) But like any good sale, is the deal too good to be true?  Let’s take a closer look at the offers (and fine print):

Both options feature discounted registration fees, but limited score report options and more expensive additional score reports (ASRs). ASRs are currently $28 per report.

Option 1: $150 registration fee, No initial score reports (ASR: $50 each)

Option 2: $200 registration fee, 2 initial score reports (ASR: $50 each)

Option 3: $250 registration fee, 5 initial score reports (ASR: $28 each)**

**Current GMAT pricing

Keep in mind that the average GMAT test taker submits 2.7 score reports with their business school applications so GMAC is hoping to recover some of those initial cost savings down the road, but yes, that $50 ASR fee can create a little sticker shock.

So is there an upside to any of these options?

For students who aren’t thinking about grad school anytime soon and, more importantly, have time to prepare for the GMAT (think second-semester Seniors or students with a lighter course load), Option 1 does have a few merits. Because these students don’t have grad school or specific programs on their radar, the lack of score reports isn’t an issue. And since scores are good for five years, it gives students a chance to bank a good score early while not shelling out the full $250.

This is the population that GMAC is targeting with this promotion because the reality is most students will end up sending score reports to multiple programs. However, if the cost of an ASR increases down the road, at least this locks in a lower test fee and possibly a competitive ASR fee.

Students who are applying to a graduate program now (think Juniors or Seniors looking at a pre-work-experience programs) should definitely consider Option 2. Since these students already know which program they’re aiming for, the two free score reports at the test center are a bargain (and ultimately save the student $50).

What isn’t mentioned on the website but should be considered is the current GMAT registration fee of $250. This fee hasn’t changed in over a decade, and while GMAC hasn’t made any announcements about a price hike, it’s unreasonable to think that it’ll remain $250 forever. The odds of the fees increasing in the next  5- 10 years? Hard to say, but there’s likely some merit in locking in a lower priced test.

When you examine Option 3, or the current GMAT standard, you should also look at the GMAT’s primary competitor, the GRE, which is a more widely recognized brand at the undergrad level. ETS just increased GRE fees in the U.S. from $160 to $205 in January of 2016 (ETS does offer a reduced fee certificate to undergrads who meet certain criteria which reduces the cost by 50%). So by offering a variety of pricing options, GMAC is making the GMAT more financially competitive with the GRE.

Regardless of whether you take the GMAT or GRE, Veritas Prep is committed to helping you prepare to do your best on test day. You can find additional information about the GMAC tiered pricing here and information on Veritas Prep’s GMAT prep offerings here.  We also encourage students to sign up for one of our free online GMAT seminars, and to follow us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+, and Twitter!

By Joanna Graham

Breaking Down the 2017 U.S. News Ranking of Top Business Schools: Let the Games Begin!

US News College RankingsJust three and a half months into 2016, U.S. News & World Report has already released its 2017 ranking of Top Business Schools, and there’s quite a bit to talk about. The U.S. News ranking is arguably the most influential among U.S. business schools, and for good reason.

Various stakeholders can (and do) haggle over percentages of weight given to this statistic or that, but we at Veritas Prep think it does a good job at quantifying broad characteristics that a typical business school applicant would care about, namely the school’s overall reputation (40% weight), the ability to place you in a good-paying job (35%), and the capabilities of your fellow students (25%). We won’t get into the nitty-gritty here, but you’re more than welcome to read about the rankings methodology on the U.S. News website.

Now, let’s get into the juicy stuff!

Chicago Booth moves to #2
For the first time in the poll’s history, Chicago Booth has entered the #2 spot, tied with Stanford Graduate School of Business. There’s a lot to talk about here. How can Booth, which admits one in every four applicants (24.4%), possibly rank equally to Stanford, which admits only 6.1%? The key is that Stanford graduates are pickier.

Let me explain: Stanford exceeds Booth (and pretty much every other program) in every category except job placement. In fact, on the surface, Stanford’s job placement numbers look absolutely abysmal: It ranks #52 in percentage of graduates employed at graduation (71.7%) and #74 in percentage of grads employed three months after graduation (86.2%).

But wait, shouldn’t recruiters be pounding down the door to hire Stanford grads? Indeed, they do. However, Stanford MBAs are known for being exceptionally picky, and they’re willing to wait to get the jobs they want. This year, 92% of Stanford MBAs had received a job offer within 3 months of graduation, but several of them chose not to accept those offers. MBAs from most other schools have a lower tolerance for risk, so once they near the three-month mark after graduation, few offers go unanswered.

In addition, far fewer Stanford graduates go into traditional MBA recruiting industries such as management, consulting and finance. These industries will hire whole classes of MBA recruits many months before graduation, so the schools that send more graduates into those industries tend to have stronger recruitment statistics than the programs that send more graduates into non-traditional positions. Remember, most companies will only hire someone when a position becomes available (just-in-time hiring), rather than hiring a whole slew of graduates at once.

Many Stanford grads tend to gravitate toward venture capital, private equity, or Bay Area startups, which are far smaller than the enormous banks and management consulting firms that many traditional MBAs are hired to. This depresses their statistics, but is also a key reason to attend Stanford GSB. Based on all other criteria, Stanford would be the clear #1 ranked program.

This isn’t to say that Chicago Booth isn’t deserving. The school has invested significantly in its career services resources and recruiting apparatus to ensure its graduates have stellar jobs upon graduation. Fully 95% of Booth graduates had accepted a job offer within three months of graduation, leading every school in the top-10 except the (much smaller) class at Tuck, which edged them out at 95.1%.

NYU Stern drops to #20, but ignore it
The biggest loser — by far — in this year’s ranking is NYU Stern, dropping from #11 last year to #20 this year. The school is furious, and we can’t blame them. Dean Peter Henry released a press release explaining the drop in ranking, which was due to inadvertently leaving one answer blank on a survey of 300 questions. The question asked for the number of admits that had submitted a GMAT score, which was not dramatically different from the previous year.

However, rather than simply reaching out and asking NYU Stern – perennially ranked in the top 10-12 programs – what the number should be, the ranking “estimated” the number, resulting in a drop of nine places. Clearly, their estimate was nowhere near realistic, and we at Veritas Prep believe this action by U.S. News to be in egregiously bad taste and downright punitive. We encourage all of our clients and readers to ignore this year’s ranking of NYU Stern, to not incorporate it into their school-selection decisions, and assume that had the data been reported correctly, the school would have remained in approximately the same rank.

Check out Part 2 of this article, in which we’ll take a deeper look at these rankings and what they might mean for you.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Travis Morgan is the Director of Admissions Consulting for Veritas Prep and earned his MBA with distinction from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. He served in the Kellogg Student Admissions Office, Alumni Admissions Organization and Diversity & Inclusion Council, among several other posts. Travis joined Veritas Prep as an admissions consultant and GMAT instructor, and he was named Worldwide Instructor of the Year in 2011. 

Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: Dealing with Tangents on the GMAT

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomConsidering a two dimensional figure, a tangent is a line that touches a curve at a single point.  Here are some examples of tangents:



In each of these cases, the line touches the curve at a single point. In the case of a circle, when you draw the radius of the circle from the center to the point of contact with the tangent, the radius is perpendicular to the tangent (as demonstrated in the figure on the right, above). A question discussing this concept is given in our post here.

Today, we will look at a question involving a tangent to a parabola:

If f(x) = 3x^2 – tx + 5 is tangent to the x-axis, what is the value of the positive number t?

(A) 2√15
(B) 4√15
(C) 3√13
(D) 4√13
(E) 6√15

Let’s first try to understand what the question is saying.

f(x) is a tangent to the x-axis. We know that the x-axis is a straight line, so f(x) must be a curve. A quadratic equation, such as our given equation of f(x) = 3x^2 -tx +5, gives a parabola. Since the x^2 term in the equation is positive, the parabola would be facing upwards and touching the x-axis at a single point, such as:







Since the parabola touches the x-axis in only one point, it means the quadratic has only one root, or in other words, the quadratic must be a perfect square.

Therefore, f(x) = 3x^2 – tx + 5 = √3(x)^2 – tx + (√5)^2

To get f(x) in the form a^2 – 2ab + b^2 = (a – b)^2,

tx = 2ab = (2√3)x * √5

t = 2√15

Note that if t takes this value, the quadratic will have only one root.

Plugging this value of t back into our equation, we will get: f(x) = √3(x)^2 – 2(√15)(x) + (√5)^2

f(x) = (√3)x – (√5)^2

We know that the root of f(x) is the point where the value of the y coordinate is 0. Therefore:

(√3)x – (√5)^2  = 0

x = (√5)/(√3)

At this x co-ordinate, the parabola will touch the x axis.

[This calculation was shown only to help you completely understand the question. We could have easily stopped at t = 2(√15).]

Therefore, our answer is A.

The question can be solved in various other ways – think of how, and write your thoughts in the comments below!

Getting ready to take the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+, and Twitter!

Karishma, a Computer Engineer with a keen interest in alternative Mathematical approaches, has mentored students in the continents of Asia, Europe and North America. She teaches the GMAT for Veritas Prep and regularly participates in content development projects such as this blog!

The GMAC Executive Assessment: Part 2

GMAT Select Section Order PilotIn our first post, we broke down the new GMAC® Executive Assessment which provides EMBA candidates with an alternative testing option to the GMAT. While on paper, the exam might resemble a “mini-GMAT,” a deeper dive reveals an assessment with GMAT roots, but a distinct personality of its own.

More Business Focus
A look at sample questions from the website suggests that the EA pulls from item pools that are similar, if not identical, to the GMAT. In fact, some questions seem to have more of a “business” feel compared to your traditional GMAT question. (The GMAT has long been touted as an exam that doesn’t reward or punish lack of a traditional business background, as it aims to test critical reasoning and higher order thinking skills that are industry-agnostic.)

This may be a coincidence, but one can’t ignore the fact that most EMBA candidates have significant work experience (10+ years typically) and most likely a stronger sense of business in general compared to their 24-year-old counterparts looking at full-time programs. Regardless, any leaning towards business (whether intentional or not) would likely be attractive to more EMBA candidates.

Integrated Reasoning Grows in Prominence
One other interesting aspect of the EA is the increased proportion of Integrated Reasoning (IR) questions. IR makes up exactly one-third of this assessment and is incorporated into the candidate’s total score. Conversely, IR is a small portion (30 minutes) of the GMAT exam. The GMAT quantitative and verbal sections are each 75 minutes in length, and the GMAT total score represents a combination of the quantitative and verbal sub-scores. GMAT IR scores are reported separately from the total score.

While GMAC has published survey research on the “relevance” of skills tested on IR, the deeper integration of IR into the EA assessment and total score seems to further support the notion that the skills tested are truly relevant and strong indicators of success in a graduate business program. And perhaps these skills are even more important at the EMBA level.

Pilot Program for Now
The Executive Assessment (EA) is currently in a Beta phase that will last at least 18 months (or a full admissions cycle and academic year) to allow for validity studies to be conducted. GMAC has long been committed to developing assessment products that are not only relevant, but valid predictors of success in a graduate management program. The six pilot programs were selected because they were willing to commit the necessary time, energy and resources to see this phase through.

The EA targets a different demographic than the GMAT (older, significant work experience, further removed from the undergrad experience) and the test doesn’t leverage computer-adaptive testing in the way that the current GMAT does. Thus, norms for this assessment will differ, further underscoring the importance of measuring exam outcomes against academic performance in an EMBA program.  At this time, there are no plans to add additional programs until after the Beta phase is complete.

Only “Modest Preparation” Required
One of the biggest differences between the EA and GMAT is the amount of preparation that GMAC is advocating for it. It’s no secret that candidates need to prepare for the GMAT, and GMAC survey research indicates that the average candidate spends between 60 and 90 days preparing for the GMAT.  However, the EA recognizes that candidates are less likely to have the bandwidth for preparation that traditional GMAT candidates might have.  The EA will help schools to differentiate competencies that are a little “rusty” versus those that are “ready” and enable them to prescribe pre-work to ensure all candidates begin their EMBA programs on an even playing field.

That being said, candidates looking to distinguish themselves from other applicants can certainly benefit from preparation. Given the overlap with GMAT content, leveraging current GMAT materials to gain a better understanding of question types is a good starting point.  Pacing, as always, will be paramount, and additional time and focus on IR will be crucial given its more significant role in the exam (and total score).

If you’re interested in learning more about GMAT preparation and customized options for EA preparation, please visit our GMAT Website or attend one of our upcoming free online GMAT seminars. And, be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+, and Twitter!

By Joanna Graham

Get Your College Questions Answered in Our Free Online College Admissions Workshop

FAQIt is no secret applying to college is difficult – choosing schools to apply to and completing your applications is challenging enough, but you also have to ensure you stand out against the thousands of other students applying to these same schools. No matter what stage you’re at in your college application process, you undoubtedly have questions about how to maximize your chances of acceptance.

If you’re looking for a leg-up on the competition when applying to college, register for one of Veritas Prep’s upcoming free live-online College Admissions Workshops, led by Ivy League college admissions expert, Dakotah Eddy. In this hour-long session, you’ll learn the ways in which admissions officers will evaluate you, what they are looking for in applicants, and how you stack up against other college candidates. You’ll also have the opportunity to ask questions and get immediate feedback as to how you can best prepare for the college admissions process and increase your odds of acceptance.

So what are you waiting for? Register to attend the next Veritas Prep College Admissions Workshop now and put yourself on the road to college success!

Tuesday, March 22
Thursday, April 14
Tuesday, April 26
7:00 – 8:00pm (Eastern)

Reserve your spot now!

Want a more focused, personalized approach to tackle the college application process? Check out our various College Admissions Consulting servicesAnd as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

GMAT Tip of the Week: Your Mind Is Playing Tricks On You

GMAT Tip of the WeekOf all the song lyrics of all the hip hop albums of all time, perhaps the one that captures the difficulty of the GMAT the most comes from the Geto Boys:

It’s f-ed up when your mind is playing tricks on you.

The link above demonstrates a handful of ways that your mind can play tricks on you when you’re in the “fog of war” during the GMAT, but here, four Hip Hop Months later in the middle of yet another election season that has many Millennial MBA aspirants feeling the Bern, it’s time to detail one more. Consider this Critical Reasoning problem:

Among the one hundred most profitable companies in the United States, nearly half qualify as “socially responsible companies,” including seven of the top ten most profitable on that list. This designation means that these companies donate a significant portion of their revenues to charity; that they adhere to all relevant environmental and product safety standards; and that their hiring and employment policies encourage commitments to diversity, gender pay equality, and work-life balance.

Which of the following conclusions can be drawn based on the statements above?

(A) Socially responsible companies are, on average, more profitable than other companies.
(B) Consumers prefer to purchase products from socially responsible companies whenever possible.
(C) It is possible for any company to be both socially responsible and profitable.
(D) Companies do not have to be socially responsible in order to be profitable.
(E) Not all socially responsible companies are profitable.

How does your mind play tricks on you here? Check out these statistics from the Veritas Prep Practice Tests:

Socially responsible

When you look at the two most popular answer choices, there’s a stark difference in what they mean outside the context of the problem. The most popular – but incorrect – answer says what you want it to say. You want social responsibility to pay off, for companies to be rewarded for doing the right thing. But it’s the words that don’t appeal to your heart and/or conscience that are the most important on these problems, and the justification for “any company” to be both socially responsible and profitable isn’t there in the argument.

Sure, several companies in the top 10 and top 100 are both socially responsible and profitable, but ANY company means that if you pick any given company, that particular company has to be capable of both. And it may very well be that in certain industries, the profit margins are too slim for that to be possible.

Say, for example, that in one of the commodities markets there simply isn’t any brand equity for social responsibility, and the top competitors are so focused on pushing out competition that any cost outside of productivity would put a company into the red. It’s not a thought you necessarily want to have, but it’s a possible outcome given the prompt, and it invalidates answer (C). Since Inference answers MUST BE TRUE, C just doesn’t meet that standard.

Which brings you to D, the correct but unpopular answer. That’s not what your heart and conscience want to conclude at all – you’d love for there to be a world in which consumers will reject any products from companies that aren’t made by companies taking the moral high ground, but if you look specifically at the facts of the argument, 3 of the top 10 most profitable companies and more than half of the top 100 are not socially responsible. So answer choice D is airtight – it’s not what you want to hear, but it’s definitely true based on the argument.

The lesson? Once you get that MBA you have the opportunity to change the world, but while you’re in the GMAT test center doing Critical Reasoning problems, you can only draw conclusions based on the facts that they give you. Don’t let your outside opinions frame the way that you read the problem. If you know that you have some personal interest in the topic, that’s a sign that you’ll need to be even more literal about what’s written. Your mind can play tricks on you – as it did for nearly half of test-takers here – so know that on test day you have to get it under control.

Getting ready to take the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTubeGoogle+ and Twitter!

By Brian Galvin.

SAT Tip of the Week: How to Prepare for the SAT

SAT Tip of the Week - FullThe majority of high school students who choose to take the SAT understand the importance of studying, but they often don’t know exactly how to prepare for this crucial exam. Test preparation can be much less stressful when you learn a few simple strategies. Let’s examine a few SAT study tips so you can know what’s involved in preparing for this important test:

Take a Practice Test to Evaluate Your Skills
When preparing for the SAT, the item at the top of every high school student’s to-do list should be to take a practice test. The results of this test will help determine where to focus your study efforts as you continue to prepare for the real SAT.

Devise a Study Schedule
Once you know your practice test results, it’s time to create a study schedule. Some students like to keep an SAT study schedule in their smartphone or laptop, while others prefer to make a schedule in a traditional notebook.

Any schedule you create should include several hours of SAT study per week – in fact, it’s helpful to look at SAT preparation as a part-time job. Each day of your schedule must include the specific material that needs to be studied, as well as the time spent on each topic.

For example, you may decide to dedicate two hours each day of the week to SAT preparation. On Monday, set aside 30 minutes for completing algebra equations and 30 minutes for tackling data analysis problems. The first 15 minutes of the second hour can be spent on quick sentence correction questions, and the remaining 45 minutes of that hour can be for essay-writing practice. The other days on your schedule can then cover different subjects so you are well-prepared on test day.

Creating a detailed SAT study schedule such as this will make it easy for you to keep track of what you need to tackle on any particular day. Plus, you’re then able to enjoy a sense of progress as you review what you’ve completed in previous study sessions.

Create Study Aids for Challenging Subjects
Study aids can be effective for both the Math and Verbal Sections of the SAT. Prepare with a simple study aid that can be used each day. For instance, if you are working to boost your algebra skills, you might have a collection of worksheets featuring equations of varying difficulty. You can then complete a few worksheets each day and go back to review any incorrect answers. Similarly, in preparing for the Verbal Sections of the SAT, if you are having difficulty remembering the differences between various homophones, it may be helpful to create flashcards to practice studying these words.

Start a New Routine of Healthy Habits
When considering how to prepare for the SAT, test-taking students often envision themselves completing math exercises, analyzing unfamiliar words, and writing essays. But there are additional ways to prep for the SAT that can affect a student’s performance.

For example, eating healthier foods and drinking more water each day can build up your energy in the weeks before the test. You may want to think about replacing unhealthy snacks with healthier options, such as replacing soda with low-sugar drinks. It’s also important to get plenty of sleep as test day approaches, as well as the night before the actual test. Some students feel so good as a result of these changes that they continue their new routines long after test day has passed!

Take Advantage of SAT Resources
Veritas Prep offers many free resources to help you with your SAT prep, including live-online SAT workshops (where you can have your SAT questions answered in real-time by one of our 99th percentile instructors), fun and informative YouTube videos, and more helpful articles like this one.

And for more structured help studying for the SAT, Veritas Prep also has a variety of tutoring options. Each of our tutors at Veritas Prep achieved an SAT score that placed them in the top 1% of students who took the test, so our students receive test-taking strategies and advice from individuals who have truly conquered the SAT! Contact Veritas Prep today and let us tell you more about our invaluable SAT prep options.

Still need to take the SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

2 Tips to Make GMAT Remainder Questions Easy

stressed-studentSeveral months ago, I wrote an article about remaindersBecause this concept shows up so often on the GMAT, I thought it would be useful to revisit the topic. At times, it will be helpful to know the kind of terminology we’re taught in grade school, while at other times, we’ll simply want to select simple numbers that satisfy the parameters of a Data Sufficiency statement.

So let’s explore each of these scenarios in a little more detail. A simple example can illustrate the terminology: if we divide 7 by 4, we’ll have 7/4 = 1 + ¾.

7, the term we’re dividing by something else, is called the dividend. 4, which is doing the dividing, is called the divisor. 1, the whole number component of the mixed fraction, is the quotient. And 3 is the remainder. This probably feels familiar.

In the abstract, the equation is: Dividend/Divisor = Quotient + Remainder/Divisor. If we multiply through by the Divisor, we get: Dividend = Quotient*Divisor + Remainder.

Simply knowing this terminology will be sufficient to answer the following official question:

When N is divided by T, the quotient is S and the remainder is V. Which of the following expressions is equal to N? 

B) S + V
C) ST + V
D) T(S+V)
E) T(S – V) 

In this problem, N – which is getting divided by something else – is our dividend, T is the divisor, S is the quotient, and V is the remainder. Plugging the variables into our equation of Dividend = Quotient*Divisor + Remainder, we get N = ST + V… and we’re done! The answer is C.

(Note that if you forgot the equation, you could also pick simple numbers to solve this problem. Say N = 7 and T = 3. 7/3 = 2 + 1/3.  The Quotient is 2, and the remainder is 1, so V = 1. Now, if we plug in 3 for T, 2 for S, and 1 for V, we’ll want an N of 7. Answer choice C will give us an N of 7, 2*3 + 1 = 7, so this is correct.)

When we need to generate a list of potential values to test in a data sufficiency question, often a statement will give us information about the dividend in terms of the divisor and the remainder.

Take the following example: when x is divided by 5, the remainder is 4. Here, the dividend is x, the divisor is 5, and the remainder is 4. We don’t know the quotient, so we’ll just call it q. In equation form, it will look like this: x = 5q + 4. Now we can generate values for x by picking values for q, bearing in mind that the quotient must be a non-negative integer.

If q = 0, x = 4. If q = 1, x = 9. If q=2, x = 14. Notice the pattern in our x values: x = 4 or 9 or 14… In essence, the first allowable value of x is the remainder. Afterwards, we’re simply adding the divisor, 5, over and over. This is a handy shortcut to use in complicated data sufficiency problems, such as the following:

If x and y are integers, what is the remainder when x^2 + y^2 is divided by 5?

1) When x – y is divided by 5, the remainder is 1
2) When x + y is divided by 5, the remainder is 2

In this problem, Statement 1 gives us potential values for x – y. If we begin with the remainder (1) and continually add the divisor (5), we know that x – y = 1 or 6 or 11, etc. If x – y = 1, we can say that x = 1 and y = 0. In this case, x^2 + y^2 = 1 + 0 = 1, and the remainder when 1 is divided by 5 is 1. If x – y = 6, then we can say that x = 7 and y = 1. Now x^2 + y^2 = 49 + 1 = 50, and the remainder when 50 is divided by 5 is 0. Because the remainder changes from one scenario to another, Statement 1 is not sufficient alone.

Statement 2 gives us potential values for x + y. If we begin with the remainder (2) and continually add the divisor (5), we know that x + y = 2 or 7 or 12, etc. If x + y = 2, we can say that x = 1 and y = 1. In this case, x^2 + y^2 = 1 + 1 = 2, and the remainder when 2 is divided by 5 is 2. If x + y = 7, then we can say that x = 7 and y = 0. Now x^2 + y^2 = 49 + 0 = 49, and the remainder when 49 is divided by 5 is 4. Because the remainder changes from one scenario to another, Statement 2 is also not sufficient alone.

Now test them together – simply select one scenario from Statement 1 and one scenario from Statement 2 and see what happens. Say x – y = 1 and x + y = 7. Adding these equations, we get 2x = 8, or x = 4. If x = 4, y = 3. Now x^2 + y^2 = 16 + 9 = 25, and the remainder when 25 is divided by 5 is 0.

We need to see if this will ever change, so try another scenario. Say x – y = 6 and x + y = 12. Adding the equations, we get 2x = 18, or x = 9. If x =  9, y = 3, and x^2 + y^2 = 81 + 9 = 90. The remainder when 90 is divided by 5 is, again, 0. No matter what we select, this will be the case – we know definitively that the remainder is 0. Together the statements are sufficient, so the answer is C.

Takeaway: You’re virtually guaranteed to see remainder questions on the GMAT, so you want to make sure you have this concept mastered. First, make sure you feel comfortable with the following equation: Dividend = Divisor*Quotient + Remainder. Second, if you need to select values, you can simply start with the remainder and then add the divisor over and over again. If you internalize these two ideas, remainder questions will become considerably less daunting.

*GMATPrep questions courtesy of the Graduate Management Admissions Council.

Plan on taking the GMAT soon? We have GMAT prep courses starting all the time. And be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+ and Twitter!

By David Goldstein, a Veritas Prep GMAT instructor based in Boston. You can read more articles by him here.

The GMAC Executive Assessment: A New Way to Evaluate EMBA Applicants

GMAT Select Section Order PilotImagine a world where you could take the GMAT, but it was over in 90 minutes, and no advanced preparation was required. It sounds too good to be true, but the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC®) launched a new product, the GMAC® Executive Assessment, on March 1 that is designed to give Executive MBA programs a new way to evaluate candidates.

EMBA programs have struggled with making standardized testing compulsory in recent years. Candidates typically have much more work experience than full-time or part-time applicants, and thus are further removed from an academic classroom experience (and often have even less time to prepare for and take a standardized test). The GMAC® Executive Assessment gives applicants another testing option that looks a lot like the GMAT, but may have an easier path to success.

Let’s take a closer look at how this is similar to and different from the GMAT:

Shorter Sections
The GMAC® Executive Assessment contains three (3) sections: Integrated Reasoning, Verbal and Quantitative. Each section is just 30 minutes long, and the exam is delivered on-demand at existing test centers around the globe. Scores are valid for 5 years, unofficial scores are provided at the test center upon completion, and the same basic registration guidelines hold true (compared to the GMAT exam). Candidates are required to register at least 24 hours in advance, ID requirements at the test center are the same as the GMAT, and while there is an on-screen calculator for IR, there isn’t one for the Quantitative section.

In terms of test structure, there are 40 questions: 12 Integrated Reasoning, 14 Verbal, and 14 Quantitative. Regarding pacing, there are no differences across Integrated Reasoning, but you do gain a little bit of time on the verbal and quantitative sections (compared to the GMAT). Also, the order of sections is slightly different than the GMAT, with Integrated Reasoning leading off, followed by Verbal and then Quantitative.

From a content perspective, the test seems to be consistent with current GMAT questions, but with a slightly more skewed focus towards business. If some of the practice questions posted by GMAC® look familiar, they are – they appeared in previous versions of the Official Guide which seems to suggest content that that is consistent with current GMAT questions.

Finally, once you start the test, it will be a race to the finish with no breaks between sections.

Bigger Price, Different Retake Policy
While the test is similar to the GMAT from a content perspective, there are definitely some significant differences. First, prepare yourself for a little sticker shock: you might think since you’re getting fewer questions and you’re in and out of the test center faster, there might be a discount, however, this shorter assessment will actually cost you more ($350, compared to $250 for the GMAT). However, there is no fee for rescheduling – unless you’re less than 24 hours from your appointment – or for additional score reports.

If you’re not happy with your score, you can re-test, but you can only do so once, so make sure you’re ready! Rather than waiting 16 days to re-test like the GMAT, the waiting period is only 24 hours.

Computer Adaptive? Yes, But…
This test is not computer adaptive in the way that the GMAT is, so your answer to a question does not dictate which question you’ll see next. Rather, questions are released in groups (based on your performance on the previous group). This type of testing is called multi-stage adaptive design. The score scale is different as well – total scores will be reported on a scale of 100-200, and individual sections on scales of 0-20.

How Do You Prepare for the Executive Assessment?
One of the benefits of the Executive Assessment being touted by GMAC® is the reduction in significant preparation for this test. GMAC® advocates minimal preparation and has not rolled out any preparation materials specifically designed for this assessment. While a shorter test might suggest less preparation required, it also give candidates an opportunity to truly shine and demonstrate mastery of certain subjects and critical reasoning skills.

Which EMBA Programs Accept It Today?
Just like currency, a test is only as good as the institutions that accept it. Currently, the exam is being touted as an EMBA admissions tool. Six schools have signed on to use it as part of their admissions processes:  INSEAD (France), CEIBS (China), London Business School (United Kingdom), the University of Hong Kong, Columbia University (New York, USA), and the University of Chicago (Illinois, USA). How the schools are using it varies by program.

In terms of preference, LBS’ website suggests that they’ll accept either the Executive Assessment or the GMAT while CEIBS indicates a preference for the Executive Assessment. Columbia, the University of Chicago, and the University of Hong Kong will accept the GMAT, GRE or Executive Assessment, and INSEAD only lists the GMAT currently (as of 3/11/2016), but we can assume they’ll accept either  the GMAT or Executive Assessment for future applicants.

We’ll take a deeper look at the Executive Assessment and schools in our next article, but initial feedback seems positive. LBS’ blog touts it as a quality tool because it is “relevant to executives in terms of its content (much more focus on critical thinking, analysis and problem solving, and much less on pure mathematics and grammatical structures).” At Veritas Prep, we’re committed to staying abreast of the latest developments and trends in the graduate business space, and helping candidate identify the best assessment and mode of preparation.

Getting ready to take the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+, and Twitter!

By Joanna Graham

See All That Tuck Has to Offer During Their Upcoming Military Visit Day

Tuck School LogoDartmouth’s Tuck School of Business will be hosting a special day for future military applicants on Monday, April 18, 2016. If you are a currently in the military (or are a veteran) and are interested in pursuing your MBA, Tuck has planned a full day of events to help set you up for success in your business school application process.

There will be a chance to sit in on an MBA class and attend panels hosted by members of the Tuck Admissions Committee, current Military students, the Career Development Office and the Financial Aid Office. If you are planning to apply to the Tuck Class of 2019, you may also have the opportunity to schedule an admissions interview, if you are ready.

In addition, for those who arrive early before the event, members of the Tuck’s Armed Forces Alumni Association will be hosting an informal social for event attendees on Sunday, April 17, the night before the event.

Military Visit Day officially kicks off at 7:30am, Monday morning. Tuck looks forward to having you in Hanover!

Click here to register now! 

If you’re interested in applying to Tuck, or any other MBA program, call us at 1-800-925-7737 to speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Understanding Absolute Values with Two Variables

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomWe have looked at quite a few absolute value and inequality concepts. (Check out our discussion on the basics of absolute values and inequalities, here, and our discussion on how to handle inequalities with multiple absolute value terms in a single variable, here.) Today let’s look at an absolute value concept involving two variables. It is unlikely that you will see such a question on the actual GMAT, since it involves multiple steps, but it will help you understand absolute values better.

Recall the definition of absolute value:

|x| = x if x ≥ 0

|x| = -x if x < 0

So, to remove the absolute value sign, you will need to consider two cases – one when x is positive or 0, and another when it is negative.

Say, you are given an inequality, such as |x – y| < |x|. Here, you have two absolute value expressions: |x – y| and |x|. You need to get rid of the absolute value signs, but how will you do that?

You know that to remove the absolute value sign, you need to consider the two cases. Therefore:

|x – y| = (x – y) if (x – y) ≥ 0

|x – y| = – (x – y) if (x – y) < 0

But don’t forget, we also need to remove the absolute value sign that |x| has. Therefore:

|x| = x if x ≥ 0

|x| = -x if x < 0

In all we will get four cases to consider:

Case 1: (x – y) ≥ 0 and x ≥ 0

Case 2: (x – y) < 0 and x ≥ 0

Case 3: (x – y) ≥ 0 and x < 0

Case 4: (x – y) < 0 and x < 0

Let’s look at each case separately:

Case 1: (x – y) ≥ 0 (which implies x ≥ y) and x ≥ 0

|x – y| < |x|

(x – y) < x

-y < 0

Multiply by -1 to get:

y > 0

In this case, we will get 0 < y ≤ x.

Case 2: (x – y) < 0 (which implies x < y) and x ≥ 0

|x – y| < |x|

-(x – y) < x

2x > y

x > y/2

In this case, we will get 0 < y/2 < x < y.

Case 3: (x – y) ≥ 0 (which implies x ≥ y) and x < 0

|x – y| < |x|

(x – y) < -x

2x < y

x < y/2

In this case, we will get y ≤ x < y/2 < 0.

Case 4: (x – y) < 0 (which implies x < y) and x < 0

|x – y| < |x|

-(x – y) < -x

-x + y < -x

y < 0

In this case, we will get x < y < 0.

Considering all four cases, we get that both x and y are either positive or both are negative. Case 1 and Case 2 imply that if both x and y are positive, then x > y/2, and Case 3 and Case 4 imply that if both x and y are negative, then x < y/2. With these in mind, there is a range of values in which the inequality will hold. Both x and y should have the same sign – if they are both positive, x > y/2, and if they are both negative, x < y/2.

Here are some examples of values for which the inequality will hold:

x = 4, y = 5

x = 8, y = 2

x = -2, y = -1

x = -5, y = -6


Here are some examples of values for which the inequality will not hold:

x = 4, y = -5 (x and y have opposite signs)

x = 5, y = 15 (x is not greater than y/2)

x = -5, y = 9 (x and y have opposite signs)

x = -6, y = -14 (x is not less than y/2)


As said before, don’t worry about going through this method during the actual GMAT exam – if you do get a similar question, some strategies such as plugging in values and/or using answer choices to your advantage will work. Overall, this example hopefully helped you understand absolute values a little better.

Getting ready to take the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+, and Twitter!

Karishma, a Computer Engineer with a keen interest in alternative Mathematical approaches, has mentored students in the continents of Asia, Europe and North America. She teaches the GMAT for Veritas Prep and regularly participates in content development projects such as this blog!

Utilize Kobe Bryant’s Strategies to Write the Perfect Accomplishment Essay

kobeKobe Bryant, superstar guard of the L.A. Lakers, chose to announce his retirement from the NBA this year by writing a poem addressed to the game of basketball. Inspired by Kobe’s interest in writing, and his last NBA All-Star game appearance, this entry uses Kobe’s well-documented life and career as a case study for MBA candidates who are trying to decide what points to highlight in their application essays.

If Kobe were to apply to business school and write an Accomplishments Essay on his career, these would be my suggestions (which are, of course, applicable to your own application essays):

Highlight a Team Accomplishment
With a myriad of individual accomplishments to choose from – such as being 3rd on the NBA all-time scoring list, being an MVP, or multiple All-NBA and All-Star selection including an incredible 81-point game – it would be best for Kobe to choose a team accomplishment to highlight. This would help mitigate the Admissions Committee’s concerns about him being too individualistic (and and views that he is an egotistical maniac).

Lesson: For candidates involved with very technical or individual work, highlighting interpersonal skills or group accomplishments will help address stereotypical biases and display a multi-dimensional personality. It will assure the program you are applying to that you will be able to contribute positively to group experiences both in and out of the classroom.

Provide Essential Details
To dive into his essay further, Kobe could choose to write about his first championship where he had to take on a major role in a critical game (for the NBA fans, this is Game 4 of the 2000 finals) as a highlight. Playing on a sprained ankle, Kobe had to step up to the challenge when the Lakers’ main star, Shaquille O’Neal, had to leave the game due to six fouls.

He could then weave into his story how hours of practice finally paid off and how he happy he was to deliver for his team, after remembering how he disappointed he felt after he had let the team down in 1997, as an 18 year-old, when he missed four airballs in a similar scenario.

Lesson: This example would encompass several key aspects of an MBA candidate’s profile, including ability to perform under pressure, handle large-scale responsibility at a young age, and work through personal difficulties, and including the story about the 1997 disappointment would show humility, perseverance, and resilience. These are admirable and relatable characteristics, which are important to remember when writing these essays. It will be helpful to come across as somebody that can be identified with, somebody that people would want to root for, rather than only being an otherworldly talent or incredibly fortunate heir.

Recognize Help and Mentorship
Acknowledging superstar teammate Shaq as the lead player and mentioning the guidance provided by legendary coach Phil Jackson during his essay would help Kobe come across as genuine, humble, and a good team player.

Lesson: When writing these essays, some applicants are tempted to grab all the credit. In team-based accomplishments, one wants to communicate not only his or her contributions, but also the ability to work with and learn from others.

Finally, for that slam-dunk essay, while accolades and statistics are important, Kobe’s (and your) profile has to resonate with very human qualities and a personal story explaining the journey to truly impress MBA Admissions Committees.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Written by Edison Cu, a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for INSEAD.

What is the TOEFL Exam?

GoalsThere are many acronyms involved with applying for the most important graduate business education acronym of them all: the MBA. From GPAs to GMATs, all of these acronyms can get pretty confusing. One such important acronym that often flies under the radar is the TOEFL.

Now why is the TOEFL so important? Well, it is a required component of any international application. From a foundational perspective, the TOEFL is a standardized exam used to assess the English language proficiency of non-native speakers.

The overall TOEFL score is used to ensure that international students will be able to handle a predominantly English-speaking educational environment. As such, the TOEFL scores international applicants on their communicative English skills, such as their listening, reading, writing, and speaking ability. The test also evaluates international applicants on the basis of their enabling skills, like grammar, pronunciation, oral fluency, spelling, vocabulary and written discourse abilities.

Like the GMAT, there is no “passing” or “failing” score for the TOEFL – an acceptable score is one that is above the minimum threshold for your target program. Some programs do not have a minimum score required, so be sure to research what the requirements are for your schools of interest before preparing for this test. For those programs that do require a minimum TOEFL score, the magic number is a score of 100 at most schools, with higher requirements at outlier programs like Booth, Harvard Business School, and INSEAD.

Some programs will also waive the TOEFL requirements for some applicants, but this is usually due to having ample past work experience where English is the official working language or having been educated at the primary, secondary or undergraduate level from an English speaking institution. Waivers for the TOEFL will be evaluated on a case by case and school by school basis, so make sure to do your due diligence here if you are considering a waiver.

The TOEFL is a necessary part of the business school application process, so if you are an international applicant, make sure you know the requirements at your target programs and proceed accordingly.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can find more of his articles here.

3 Things We Learned From the First New SAT (That You Should Know, Too!)

SAT Tip of the Week - FullAfter months of speculation and conversation, the first iteration of the “new SAT” was administered this past week and weekend by the College Board.   While previous administrations of the SAT have been marred by historic snowstorms and typos on testing booklets, it seems that the big news around this test is the test itself.

With a new scoring scale and updated content, the new SAT is attempting to test more college-relevant skills. Gone are obscure vocabulary and penalties for guessing incorrectly. Rather, students are seeing a much heavier focus on algebra, context-based reading questions and grammar.

We spoke with several test takers and collected anecdotal feedback from this weekend’s test and wanted to share some interesting findings and advice:

1) For students who did not register for the (optional) essay, there was an additional 20 minute experimental section, or fifth section. The purpose of the section was to pre-test new potential test questions and it will not impact test takers’ scores in any way. However, test takers also won’t receive any feedback on how they performed on this section. Students who completed the essay did not take this section.

While there was some information circulated online about the experimental section, College Board didn’t indicate when the section would be administered, if it would be a regular part of the SAT moving forward, or how many markets and test centers  delivered test forms containing the extra section.

Lesson for students: Prepare for the unexpected! While extra questions might create additional anxiety and fatigue, at the end of the day, they will not make or break a student’s score. If the section happens to be delivered before the rest of the exam, give the questions an honest attempt and think of it as a warm-up.  If College Board shifts to incorporating experimental questions into the already established sections, it still should not impact study plans or test day strategy. Students are already planning on three hours of testing (and 154 questions), and in most cases, experimental questions are camouflaged well enough that they cannot be distinguished from actual questions that count.

2) Algebra counts! As advertised, algebra plays a prominent role on the new SAT, and overall, the math questions seemed to reflect the topics presented in the College Board’s previously released practice tests. Advanced concepts such as circles, trigonometry and imaginary numbers will be tested, but won’t make up the bulk of the questions on the test. For older, non-traditional students who are a little rusty in math, a strong refresher is probably in order.

Lesson for students: If you’ve been paying attention in high school math classes, nothing should be unfamiliar. However, pacing is going to be a challenge, especially on the non-calculator section, so practice techniques that will make you more efficient. Veritas Prep teaches students several strategies that can be leveraged to solve questions that are reasoning-based and more “SAT-focused” rather than pure math-focused. Often, you can leverage answer choices or manipulate questions to make the math much simpler (and quicker).  Above all, be careful not to fall back onto school-oriented math strategies just because they’re familiar – they might get you the right answer, but you may be wasting time that could be spent on the tougher math questions.

3) Use evidence and context to your advantage (on the verbal!) While the new test has eliminated obscure vocabulary, the College Board has introduced new questions that ask you to find evidence to support answers. The good news is that you’re rewarded for knowing the answer as well as  finding the evidence because these questions comes in pairs (so two points for the price of one)!

Lesson for students: If you don’t love the topics, it may be a struggle. Passages are a little longer, and there are 10-11 questions per passage so you don’t have the luxury of being able to skip a passage and hope for something more interesting on the next page.  However, pacing on the reading passages seems to be less of an issue on the new test since students can gain some momentum by focusing on one topic (and passage) rather than having to switch gears (and passages) more frequently. This should also help with college thinking as you’ll often have more time to do a deeper dive into one single topic.

While the new test likely still has some kinks to work out, it seems that the experimental section was the biggest surprise of the weekend. And if the biggest surprise was one that didn’t technically count, then that’s probably better than anything Mother Nature (or a rogue printer) could throw at students.

At Veritas Prep, we remain committed to ensuring our students are well prepared for anything the SAT might present.  We encourage you to learn more at a free online seminar soon! And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Joanna Graham

Breaking Down Your MBA Deferred Enrollment Options

GMATMany candidates start considering business school very early in their professional careers, while others start investigating even earlier as undergraduate students. Some of the top MBA programs in the world provide options for these eager college students to begin the application process for business school early.

For college students, this is an opportunity to earn an early business school admit – before even graduating college – from some of the top MBA programs in the world. This option is usually accompanied by some requirement to complete a few years of work experience, but some programs will allow students to matriculate immediately following undergrad.

Let’s explore a few of the top deferred enrollment programs and how they differ from each other:

Yale SOM
Yale’s deferred enrollment program is called the Yale Silver Scholars Program. This program is unique because it allows graduating students to begin their MBA immediately after graduation. For young applicants looking to complete their MBA at a top business school as soon as possible, this is a great option.

Silver Scholars is structured as a three-year program: the first year of the program builds business fundamentals through a core set of classes, with the second year taking students off campus through an extended internship that serves to supplement that lack of work experience Silver Scholars possess, while adding a more practical component to the program. In the final year of the program, students utilize the Yale electives curriculum to personalize their education and pursue unique areas of interest.

Harvard Business School
Harvard’s deferred enrollment program is called the HBS 2+2 Program. It is one of the most well-known and longest running of the MBA deferred enrollment programs. In the 2+2 program, participants must complete two years of HBS-approved post-undergrad work prior to matriculation. If you’re already a grad student don’t fret – with the 2+2 program, as long as you have not held a full-time work position you are still eligible to apply.

The Stanford MBA Deferred Enrollment Program offers applicants the opportunity to directly enroll in their program or pursue full-time work experience for between one and three years prior to matriculation. The school then ultimately decides which program is optimal for the student and reserves the right to place the applicant appropriately.

As always, research is the key, so go beyond secondary research and connect with current program participants and admissions officers to get a feel for which program best addresses your development needs and whether deferred enrollment makes sense for you and your career goals.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can find more of his articles here.

Quarter Wit, Quarter Wisdom: The Case of a Correct Answer Despite Incorrect Logic!

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomIt is common for GMAT test-takers to think in the right direction, understand what a question gives and what it is asking to be found out, but still get the wrong answer. Mistakes made during the execution of a problem are common on the GMAT, but what is rather rare is going with incorrect logic and still getting the correct answer! If only life was this rosy so often!

Today, we will look at a question in which exactly this phenomenon occurs – we will find the flaw in the logic that test-takers often come up with and then learn how to correct that flaw:

If a motorist had driven 1 hour longer on a certain day and at an average rate of 5 miles per hour faster, he would have covered 70 more miles than he actually did. How many more miles would he have covered than he actually did had he driven 2 hours longer and at an average rate of 10 miles per hour faster on that day?

(A) 100

(B) 120

(C) 140

(D) 150

(E) 160

This little gem (and it’s detailed algebra solution) is from our Advanced Word Problems book. We will post its solution here, too, for the sake of a comprehensive discussion:

Method 1: Algebra
Let’s start with the basic “Distance = Rate * Time” formula:

D = R*T ……….(I)

From here, the first theoretical trip can be represented as D + 70 = (R + 5)(T + 1), (the motorist travels for 1 extra hour at a rate of 5 mph faster), which can be expanded to D + 70 = RT + R + 5T +5.

We can then eliminate “D” by plugging in the value of “D” from our equation (I):

RT + 70 = RT + R + 5T + 5, which simplifies to 70 = R + 5T + 5 and then to 65 = R + 5T ……….. (II)

The second theoretical trip can be represented as (R+10)(T+2), which expands to RT + 2R + 10T + 20 (not that we only have an expression since we don’t know what the distance is).

The two middle terms (2R + 10T) can be factored to 2(R+5T), which allows us to use equation (II) here:

RT + 2(R+5T) + 20 = RT + 2(65) + 20 = RT + 150.

Since the original distance was RT, the additional distance is 150 more miles, or answer choice D.

We totally understand that this solution is a bit convoluted – algebra often is. So, understandably, students often look for a more direct logical solution.

Here is one they sometimes employ:

Method 2: Logic (Incorrect)
If the motorist had driven 1 hour longer at a rate 5 mph faster, then his original speed would be 70 miles subtracted by the extra 5 miles he drove in that hour to get 70 – 5 = 65 mph. If he drives at a rate 10 mph faster (i.e. at 65 + 10 = 75) * 2 for the extra hours, he/she would have driven 150 miles extra.

But here is the catch in this logic:

The motorist drove for an average rate of 5 mph extra. So the 70 includes not only the extra distance covered in the last hour, but also the extra 5 miles covered every hour for which he drove. Hence, his original speed is not 65. Now, let’s see the correct logical method of solving this:

Method 3: Logic (Correct)
Let’s review the original problem first. Say, speed is “S” mph – we don’t know the number of hours for which this speed was maintained.



In the first hypothetical case, the motorist drove for an extra hour at a speed of 5 mph faster. This means he covered 5 extra miles every hour and then covered another S + 5 miles in the last hour. The underlined distances are the extra ones which all add up to 70.



+5 +5 +5 + … + 5 + 5 = +70

In the second hypothetical case, in which the motorist drove for two hours longer at a speed of 10 mph faster,  he adds another 5 mph to his hourly speed and covers yet another distance of “S” in the second extra hour. In addition to S, he also covers another 10 miles in the second extra hour. The additional distances are shown in red  in the third case – every hour, the speed is 10 mph faster and he drove for two extra hours in this case (compared with Step 1).


S + S + S + … + S + S + S + S = TOTAL DISTANCE COVERED

+5  +5  +5 + …  +5  +5  +5 = +70

+5  +5  +5 + …  +5  +5  +5 + 10 = +70 + 10

Note that the +5s and the S all add up to 70 (as seen in Step 2). We also separately add the extra 10 from the last hour. This is the logic of getting the additional distance of 70 + 70 + 10 = 150. It involves no calculations, but does require you to understand the logic. Therefore, our answer is still D.

Getting ready to take the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And, be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+, and Twitter!

Karishma, a Computer Engineer with a keen interest in alternative Mathematical approaches, has mentored students in the continents of Asia, Europe and North America. She teaches the GMAT for Veritas Prep and regularly participates in content development projects such as this blog!

GMAT Tip of the Week: The Biggie Smalls Sufficiency Strategy

GMAT Tip of the WeekIf it’s March, it must be Hip Hop Month in the Veritas Prep GMAT Tip of the Week space, where this week we’ll tackle the most notorious GMAT question type – Data Sufficiency – with some help from hip hop’s most notorious rapper – Biggie Smalls.

Biggie’s lyrics – and his name itself – provide a terrific template for you to use when picking numbers to test whether a statement is sufficient or not. So let’s begin with a classic lyric from “Big Poppa” – you may think Big is describing how he’s approach a young lady in a nightclub, but if you listen closely he’s actually talking directly to you as you attack Data Sufficiency:

“Ask you what your interests are, who you be with. Things to make you smile; what numbers to dial.”

“What numbers to dial” tends to be one of the biggest challenges that face GMAT examinees, so let’s examine the strategies that can take your score from “it was all a dream” to sipping champagne when you’re thirsty.

Biggie Smalls Strategy #1: Biggie Smalls
Consider this Data Sufficiency problem:

What is the value of integer z?

1) z is the remainder when positive integer y is divided by positive integer (y – 1)

2) y is not a prime number

Statistically, more than 50% of respondents in the Veritas Prep practice tests incorrectly choose answer choice A, that Statement 1 alone is sufficient but Statement 2 alone is not sufficient. Why? Because they’re not quite sure “what numbers to dial.” People know that they need to test numbers – Statement 1 is very abstract and difficult to visualize with variables – so they test a few numbers that come to mind:

If y = 5, y – 1 = 4, and the problem is then 5/4 which leads to 1, remainder 1.

If y = 10, y – 1 = 9, so the problem is then 10/9 which also leads to 1, remainder 1.

If they keep choosing random integers that happen to come to mind, they’ll see that pattern hold – the answer is ALMOST always 1 remainder 1, with exactly one exception. If y = 2, then y – 1 = 1, and 2 divided by 1 is 2 with no remainder. This is the only case where z does not equal 1, but that one exception shows that Statement 1 is not sufficient.

The question then becomes, “If there’s only one exception, how the heck does the GMAT expect me to stumble on that needle in a haystack?” And the answer comes directly from the Notorious BIG himself:

You need to test “Biggie Smalls,” meaning that you need to test the biggest number they’ll let you use (here it can be infinite, so just test a couple of really big numbers like 1,000 and 1,000,000) and you need to test the smallest number they’ll let you use. Here, that’s y = 2 and y – 1 = 1, since y – 1 must be a positive integer, and the smallest of those is 1.

The problem is that people tend to simply test numbers that come to mind (again, over half of all respondents think that Statement 1 is sufficient, which means that they very likely never considered the pairing of 2 and 1) and don’t push the limits. Data Sufficiency tends to play to the edge cases – if you get a statement like 5 < x < 12, you can’t just test 8, 9, and 10 – you’ll want to consider 5.00001 and 11.9999. When the GMAT gives you a range, use the entire range – and a good way to remind yourself of that is to just remember “Biggie Smalls.”

Biggie Smalls Strategy #2:  Juicy
In arguably his most famous song, “Juicy”, Biggie spits the line, “Damn right I like the life I live, because I went from negative to positive and it’s all…it’s all good (and if you don’t know, now you know).”

There, of course, Biggie is reminding you that you have to consider both negative and positive numbers in Data Sufficiency problems. Consider this example:

a, b, c, and d are consecutive integers such that the product abcd = 5,040. What is the value of d?

1) d is prime

2) a>b>c>d

This problem exemplifies why keeping Big’s words top of mind is so crucial – difficult problems will often “satisfy your intellect” with interesting math…and then beat you with negative/positive ideology. Here it takes some time to factor 5040 into the consecutive integers 7 x 8 x 9 x 10, but once you do, you can see that Statement 1 is sufficient: 7 is the only prime number.

But then when you carry that over to Statement 2, it’s very, very easy to see 7, 8, 9, and 10 as the only choices and again see that d = 7. But wait! If d doesn’t have to be prime – primes can only be positive – that allows for a possibility of negative numbers: -10, -9, -8, and -7. In that case, d could be either 7 or -10, so Statement 2 is actually not sufficient.

So heed Biggie’s logic: you’ll like the life you live much better if you go from negative to positive (or in most cases, vice versa since your mind usually thinks positive first), and if you don’t know (is that sufficient?) now, after checking for both positive and negative and for the biggest and smallest numbers they’ll let you pick, now you know.

Getting ready to take the GMAT? We have free online GMAT seminars running all the time. And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTubeGoogle+ and Twitter!

By Brian Galvin.

How to Get Your Boss to Write You a Great Letter of Recommendation

RecommenderOne of the only external sources of information within an MBA application package is the voice of one’s recommendations. For such an important component, it is critical to arm your recommender with enough information to allow them to successfully draft their evaluation of the time you have worked together.

Now, let us consider the recommendation process from the side of the recommender – they are typically more senior working professionals who manage multiple people, and they are often very busy and a bit ignorant of the MBA application process, which is obviously no fault of their own. So the more you can inform and shepherd them through the process the better your ultimate evaluation will be.

Let’s discuss a few ways you can better support the evaluation process for your recommenders:

This might be one of the most important reasons to help your recommenders. Remember, YOU are applying to school, not them. It is in your best interest to make sure they are clear on all dates and deadlines – a missed deadline can equate to you missing a target admissions round. I even like to give recommenders a hard deadline in advance of the real one, so even if they miss your self-imposed deadline, which many unfortunately will, you will still be in good shape. All recommendations are due the same time as the applications, so schedule accordingly.

Personal Information
Although we like to assume our supervisors know everything about us, sometimes they need a bit of a reminder. As such, it is wise to create a package for them highlighting your accomplishments during your time in the organization, and working with them in particular. Included in this package, you should also state your motivation for pursuing an MBA and any other relevant information about your career trajectory. The more connected your recommenders are to your future success, the better your recommendation will be.

School Information
In your recommender package, you should also provide some information on each of the schools you are applying to. Every school has a unique culture and approach to graduate business education, so try to communicate this to your recommender. Such information could potentially help them shape the content of your evaluation to fit that particular school. Also, make sure your recommenders are clear on the specific questions and recommendation protocols at each school – remember, many are uninformed when it comes to the process, so make their work as easy and straightforward as possible.

Take ownership of your MBA application process by supporting your recommender in the areas above. By following these tips, you will ensure your recommendation remains an area of strength for your candidacy.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can find more of his articles here

Take Advantage Your Time as a “Partial” Adult

ReflectingI like to call the time that you’re in college “fake adulthood.” You have some responsibilities, you’re more on your own, and life starts to get a little harder. That means life is becoming more like the “real world,” but you’re not quite there yet – the real real world is still years (and a diploma) away.

In college, you have access to “free” resources, built-in support systems, and a room to sleep in; many of you will still be financially supported by your parents, and perhaps most liberating, you will not be completely screwed by messing up or failing a class. The real world (the work world) isn’t affected by some wrong answers you gave on a multiple-choice test in your History of Ancient Greece class (unless, perhaps, you’re planning to become a History of Ancient Greece professor after college).

I don’t mean to say this like it’s a bad thing – college can be a wonderful time in your life, regardless of whether it is the “real world.” What I do mean to say, is you should take advantage of the freedom and the relative lack of consequences that college entails!

There are lots of ways to do this, but two big ones are to take risks and to branch out – go explore the world and explore your own mind. You’re not bogged down by a set 9-5 schedule with rigid responsibilities, so take this opportunity to let your creativity roam free. A day in college can be spent perusing the Iliad, picnicking at a public park, attending a scientific demonstration, or going to a collegiate sporting event (for free!). It’s hard to imagine a teacher or a banker having the schedule flexibility to do all that, especially on a weekday.

In college, you can also take advantage of the fact that you aren’t working full-time to donate some of your energy to causes that you might not have as much time to later in life. There are often built-in networks on college campuses for you to get involved in volunteer work right away. Community organizations also usually love energetic, youthful volunteers, so there is bound to be a plethora of places near your campus eager to take on some extra help.

Perhaps most importantly, you can use your time in college to work hard and develop skills for responsible adulthood so you aren’t thrust into the ring with no experience. Practice cashing checks, doing laundry, buying groceries, etc. – that way, when you actually have to do live on your own, you’ll be more prepared and less nervous about making that jump into reality. It is too easy to pretend that these daily tasks of adulthood are too far in the future to be worried about, and by overcoming that self-deception and gradually preparing yourself for the routine of adult living, you will build habits that will serve you well for a lifetime to come.

College is a unique time for many reasons – during your time there, you are on the cusp of adulthood but still have ways to exercise youthful freedom. Take advantage of this by exploring yourself and the world, all while preparing yourself to soon take a step into that oh-so-scary place – the real world.

Do you still need help with your college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and register to attend one of our FREE Online College WorkshopsAnd as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

By Aidan Calvelli.